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Into the World War 

Arranged as a Narrative 


Provost and Sterling Professor of History, Yale University 







THE two concluding volumes of The Intimate Papers of 
Colonel House begin with the entrance of the United States 
into the World War and end with Colonel House's attempt 
to secure some compromise on the basis of which the Senate 
might ratify the Versailles Treaty, including the Covenant 
of the League of Nations. Their central theme is American 
participation in the war and the Peace Conference, in so far 
as the papers of Colonel House shed light on the American 
effort and Wilsonian policies. Readers of the two preceding 
volumes will remember that Colonel House, although not an 
officeholder, occupied a special position in relation to Wilson's 
administration at the time the United States became a bel- 
ligerent. He had been chosen by the President as his per- 
sonal representative and sent on three separate missions to 
the European Governments in 1914 and the two following 
years. As Wilson's representative he had come in close 
contact with European leaders during the period of American 

It was natural that, during the war, President Wilson 
should look to House for advice on every matter that touched 
American relations with the Allies and especially on all 
problems of war aims. He selected him as chief of the or- 
ganization for preparing the American case at the Peace 
Conference, appointed him head of the American War Mis- 
sion to Europe for the coordination of military and industrial 
efforts, asked him to draft a constitution for a league of na- 
tions, and again sent him to Europe as American representa- 
tive on the Supreme War Council when it arranged the armi- 
stice with Germany. At the Peace Conference, House was 
Commissioner Plenipotentiary, and, because of his intimate 
personal relations with European statesmen, was constantly 


used by the President to conduct the most delicate negotia- 
tions. During Wilson's absence from Paris and his illness, 
the President selected him to take his place on the Supreme 

In view of the position held by House and the care with 
which he and his secretary, Miss Denton, preserved all letters 
and memoranda, it is obvious that his papers, including the 
diary which he never failed to keep, provide historical ma- 
terial of the utmost value. The reader of these volumes, 
however, should be especially on his guard against two mis- 
conceptions. The papers here published represent a very 
small proportion of the large collection which Colonel House 
deposited in the Library of Yale University. If any attempt 
had been made to reproduce the substance of the numerous 
and complicated problems which were brought to House's 
attention diplomatic, naval, military, economic and 
upon which lengthy memoranda were written, the book 
would have been extended into a whole library of volumes. 
Exigencies of space have compelled omission of reference to 
all but the most significant problems. Even in the case of the 
most vital subjects the extracts from letters, cables, and diary 
deal largely in generalities. This is partly due to the fact 
that neither House nor any single individual could himself 
have gone deeply into the purely technical matters involved 
in the complex problems of the war; the function of Colonel 
House was essentially that of a diplomat, seeing that the 
right people got together to work out these problems. On 
the other hand, it has been necessary to omit numerous 
technical memoranda which, if published, would effectively 
disprove the assumption that his work was in any sense 

It is equally important for the reader to remember that, 
despite the range of House's activities, these volumes are not 
intended to constitute a history of the American effort in the 
war. They are not, in fact, published as history, but as the 


raw material for history. Their purpose is not to convey 
any definite historical conclusion nor to enforce any historical 
judgment, but rather to show what Colonel House did and 
how he came to do it. It is for the historian of the future to 
determine where he and others were right and where wrong. 
The papers are presented for what they are worth, unchanged, 
as they were written. They are presented with emphasis 
upon House's own point of view, for otherwise they would 
not be intelligible, but always with the realization that the 
historian may take another point of view. Furthermore the 
reader should bear in mind that these volumes concern 
Colonel House and are not intended to describe the activities 
of others except where they happened to touch his own. 
Colonel House is the central figure in the book, not because 
of any desire to overemphasize the importance of the political 
rdle he played, but simply because the book is based upon his 
papers. If all those closely connected with the administra- 
tion of President Wilson would tell the story of their own 
activities, following the example of Secretary Lansing and 
Secretary Houston, the scholars who ultimately write the 
definitive history of the time would find their task greatly 

C. S. 

August. 1928 


EVERY effort has been made to check the accuracy of Colonel 
House's papers by comparison with those of the statesmen 
with whom he was in correspondence. Each account of an 
important conversation recorded in the diary has been laid 
before those with whom he was in conference wherever they 
survive, and full opportunity has been given for comment in 
case of misunderstanding. It has also seemed wise to pub- 
lish at length the letters and cables of British and French 
statesmen, whenever they are necessary to an explanation 
of the nature of House's activities. In these volumes, as in 
the two preceding, care has been taken to secure complete 
authority for the publication of every letter and memo- 

I am deeply indebted to those who, by granting permission 
for the publication of documents and, in some cases, by add- 
ing their own comments, have increased the historical value 
of the volumes and made possible a complete picture of the 
work of Colonel House. I take this opportunity of expressing 
my gratitude to Sir William Tyrrell, the Marquess of Read- 
ing, the Earl of Balf our, Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Viscount 
Cecil of Chelwood, Mr. Lloyd George, Sir Eric Drummond, 
Sir Horace Plunkett, the literary executors of Lord North- 
cliffe, Sir George Sutton, Mr. Montague Ellis, Sir Campbell 
Stuart, M. Georges Clemenceau, Ambassador Jusserand, 
Marshal P6tain, M. Andr6 Tardieu, M. Andr6 Ch6radame, 
M. Ignace Paderewski, Ambassador Aimaro Sato, Ambas- 
sador Boris Bakhmetieff , Mr. Carl W. Ackerman, President 
E. A. Alderman, Admiral W. S. Benson, General Tasker H. 
Bliss, Mr. Stephen Bonsai, Dr. Isaiah Bowman, Mr. Arthur 
Bullard, Mrs. Frank I. Cobb, Mr. Paul Cravath, Mr. A. H. 


Frazier, Attorney-General Thomas W. Gregory, Professor 
Douglas Johnson, Secretary Robert Lansing, Mr. Walter 
Lippmann, Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge 3rd, President A. 
Lawrence Lowell, Mr. Thomas Nelson Perkins, Senator 
Elihu Root, Mr. Lincoln Steffens, Mr. Karl von Weigand. 
In this respect I am most of all indebted to Sir William Wise- 
man, who as chief of the British intelligence service in Wash- 
ington acted as liaison officer between Colonel House and the 
British during the war; he has not only put his valuable col- 
lection of papers at my service, but has taken infinite pains 
to clarify doubtful points by himself writing memoranda 
based upon his wartime records. Without such assistance 
the story of the work of Colonel House would have been in- 
complete and confused. 

I am particularly grateful to those who have read and crit- 
icized all or parts of the manuscript. Responsibility for the 
final form of the volumes rests upon my shoulders entirely; 
but the number of errors and infelicities would have been 
vastly increased except for the suggestions of the follow- 
ing: Mr. Gordon Auchincloss, Mr. Ackerman, Mr. Bonsai, 
Dr. Bowman, Mr. Frazier, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Breckinridge 
Long, Mr. J. J. Lyons, Professor Douglas Johnson, President 
S. E. Mezes, Mr. David Hunter Miller, Mr. Albert Bigelow 
Paine, Sir Horace Plunkett, Mr. A. D. Howden Smith, Sir 
Campbell Stuart, Mr. Henry Wickham Steed, Ambassador 
Brand Whitlock, Mr. Robert W. Woolley. 

To Mr. Andrew Keogh and the authorities of the Yale 
University Library I am indebted for the care of the House 
Collection, and to Miss Frances B. Denton for invaluable as- 
sistance in the arrangement and elucidation of documents. 
The completion of these volumes would have been impossible 
except for the untiring labor of Miss Helen M. Reynolds, 
assistant to the curator of the House Collection, upon whose 
close familiarity with the documents and judgment in their 
use I have been constantly dependent both in the construe- 


tion and the revision of the manuscript. Finally, if there is 
any merit in the literary form of the book, credit must be as- 
signed to the suggestions and criticism of my wife, who has 
read and re-read every page of the manuscript and proof. 


August, 1928 



Wilson and the declaration of war on Germany The 
military crisis of the spring of 1917, as reflected in Colonel 
House's papers Discouraging symptoms in France 
Conditions in Germany Wilson and the American war 
organization The activities and contacts of Colonel 
House Food and shipbuilding problems House's rela- 
tions with Allied envoys. 


The problem of American cooperation in the war Ameri- 
can attitude toward the Allies First suggestion of the 
Balfour Mission Arrival of Balfour and conference with 
House; problem of war aims Conferences in Washing- 
ton Discussion of secret treaties by Balfour and House 
House's account of Wilson-Balfour conference Wil- 
son's knowledge of the Treaty of London House's con- 
ference with Joffre Further discussions of war aims with 
Balfour and Drummond. 


Means of communication between House and British 
diplomats His correspondence with Balfour regarding 
naval agreement Wilson's attitude on postponement 
of American capital ship programme Disagreement be- 
tween House and Wilson over naval policy House's re- 
lations with Sir Horace Plunkett Sir Horace on the 
Irish Convention The Tardieu Mission Problems of 
coordination The Northcliffe Mission Relations of 
Northcliffe and House Activities and accomplishments 
of Northcliffe in the United States Northcliff e's cables 
dealing with war problems in America. 


House's relation to financial problems Financial situa- 
tion of the Allies in the summer of 1917 Appeals for 
American credits British anxiety over loans carried by 
J. P. Morgan and Company and other banks North- 
cliffe's presentation of Allied needs Confusion in de- 
mands of the Allies Mr. McAdoo's plan for an inter- 
allied council of coordination Northcliffe and House sug- 
gest that Lord Reading be sent to America as financial com- 
missioner Request of British Foreign Office for House's 
advice Reading accepts Mission Purchasing Agree- 
ment of August Results of Reading appointment. 



Attempts to drive a wedge between German Government 
and people Colonel House on situation in Germany 
Urges encouragement to German liberals Letters to 
Wilson regarding speech on war aims Wilson's Flag 
Day Speech House's interest in propaganda North- 
cliffe's report Plans for open debate on War Aims 
between New York World and Berliner Tageblatt 
Correspondence with Frank Cobb Objections of 
President Wilson. 


Movement for peace of compromise in Austria and Ger- 
many Czernin and the Reichstag resolution Balfour 
reports receipt of the Pope's peace proposal and asks for 
Wilson's views Colonel House on the proposal 
Wilson's reply to Balfour House's letters to Wilson, 
urging firm but liberal response Views of Rus- 
sian Ambassador Views of Ambassador Jusserand 
Wilson-House correspondence regarding response to 
the Pope's proposal Wilson plans definite formulation 
of American peace programme Asks House to gather 
and organize data for the peace conference 'The 


Wilson's visit to House at Magnolia in September 
Arrival of Reading His efforts in behalf of coordina- 
tion Reading memorandum on supplies His sug- 
gestion of an American War Mission in Europe Lloyd 
George and problems of military strategy; his desire for 
an American representative in Europe Problems of 
tonnage Balfour's cable to House regarding shipping 
losses Colonel House chosen to head American Mis- 
sion Wiseman memorandum on decision to send War 
Mission Purposes of the Mission Conferences in 
Washington Departure of the Mission Arrival in 


Crisis in Allied fortunes: Caporetto and the Bolshevik 
Revolution Lloyd George's plan for a Supreme War 
Council The Rapallo Agreement Advent of Clemen- 
ceau Ministry Parliamentary crisis in Great Britain 
Lloyd George and House House urges Wilson to act in 
concert with Allies Wilson's approval of Supreme 
War Council House's report to Wilson on British 


crisis Conferences with Balfour, Drummond, Cecil, 
Bonar Law, Robertson, Grey, Smuts, Cambon, French, 
Lansdowne, Geddes, Venizelos, Jellicoe Discussion 
regarding peace terms with Lloyd George and Balfour 
Efforts to achieve coordination in technical problems 
Northcliffe's assistance Conferences between Ameri- 
can Mission and British War Cabinet Lloyd George's 
statement of Allied needs. 


Nature of the conferences at Paris Arrival of the Amer- 
ican Mission Drawbacks of Rapallo Agreement 
House's reports to Wilson Bliss-House memorandum 
on military unity Conference with Clemenceau and 
Pfetain Arrival of British Lloyd George, after con- 
ference with House, refuses to alter Rapallo Agreement 
The Interallied Conference Meeting of Supreme War 
Council Resolutions passed Discussions of peace 
negotiations Lloyd George anxious to probe Austrian 
possibilities House's efforts to persuade Allies to meet 
German and Russian situations with joint statement of 
war aims Wilson's approval of his resolution Oppo- 
sition of Sonnino. 


Final session of Interallied Conference at Paris 
House's opinion of its accomplishments Cravath upon 
the need of coordinated effort New interallied ma- 
chinery Reports of American technical representatives 
Secret reports of Colonel House, Admiral Benson, 
General Bliss Return of American Mission to the 
United States House's first conference with Wilson 
Anxiety of Allies regarding American aid Messages 
from Clemenceau, Lloyd George, Tardieu Crisis in 
American war organization Tardieu upon the final 


Failure of Paris Conference to achieve joint programme 
of war aims House urges Wilson to formulate war 
aims in a public address Report of the Inquiry upon 
war aims House visits Wilson to discuss proposed ad- 
dress Its essential purpose House's diary record 
of Wilson's drafting of the Fourteen Points, January 5, 
1918 Particular difficulties: Freedom of the Seas; 
Alsace-Lorraine; Russia; the Balkans Lloyd George's 
speech of January 5 Interchange of cables between 


Balfour and House Delivery of the Fourteen Points 
speech Reactions in the United States, Great Britain, 
France Failure of the immediate purpose of the 
speech Ultimate importance. 


Withdrawal of Russia from the war Brest-Litovsk 
negotiations Industrial unrest in Austria and Germany 
Replies of Czernin and Hertling to Wilson's Fourteen 
Points Ackerman report on political situation in Cen- 
tral Powers Gilbert Murray on ideal peace Difficul- 
ties involved in uniting Allies in common programme 
Supreme War Council statement Wilson's irritation 
He prepares an answer to Hertling and Czernin Con- 
ferences with House Wilson's speech of February 4 
Austrian peace overtures Peace offer of the Emperor 
Karl Balfour's cable to House regarding peace pro- 
posals Smuts-Mensdorff conversations Czernin's 
memorandum Failure of peace propositions. 


Effects of Russian Revolution Proposed Japanese 
intervention in Siberia Balfour's cable to House 
Wilson and House opposed to intervention House's 
explanation to Balfour The Allies press for interallied 
intervention in Russia Bolshevik policy Reading's 
estimate of situation House's plan of economic relief 
mission to Russia Wilson unwillingly agrees to inter- 
allied intervention State Department's declaration of 
purpose of expedition. 


Effects of Brest-Litovsk peace Austro-German mili- 
tary treaty Wilson's change of tactics: discusses with 
House an address emphasizing will to victory The 
speech of April 6 Allied plea for incorporation of 
American troops in Allied armies Wilson's attitude 
Balfour's cable to House on Allied needs The March 
crisis Renewed demand for American troops House- 
Balfour interchange of cables Request from Lloyd 
George that House attend Supreme War Council Ar- 
rangement with Allies negotiated by Pershing Opti- 
mism of Colonel House. 


1917 Photogravure frontispiece 


Photograph with inscription 


Photograph with inscription 


Photograph with inscription 



Photograph with inscription 


Photograph with inscription 


With autograph 



CEMBER, 1917 226 


Photograph with inscription 


Photograph with inscription 


Photograph with inscription 



Photograph with inscription 






Photograph with inscription 




APRIL, 1917 JUNE, 1918 


When the President turned from peace to war, he did it with the same 
resolute purpose. . . . 

Colonel House to Lord Bryce, June 10, 1917 


4 THE day has come/ said President Wilson to Congress on 
April 2, 1917, 'when America is privileged to spend her 
blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth 
and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God 
helping her, she can do no other/ With these words he 
launched the United States on what he regarded as a crusade 
for a new international order; a 'steadfast concert for peace' 
that should guarantee the 'rights of nations great and small 
and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of 
life and of obedience/ With equal force he revealed his con- 
viction that only through the overthrow of the military 
masters of Germany could the object be attained. 'We are 
glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretense 
about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world 
and for the liberation of its peoples/ 

It was a deep gulf that separated the Wilson of January, 
when he told House that 'there will be no war/ and the 
Wilson of April, when he asked Congress for a declaration. 
The bridge was not easy to cross and the new path would 


not have been chosen except that he saw on the other side 
not so much a military triumph and the chastisement of an 
enemy as the vision of a new international structure in the 
creation of which the United States might take the lead. 
The German leaders themselves, by the inauguration of the 
ruthless submarine warfare, convinced him that no other 
course was possible. 'From that time henceforward/ wrote 
the German Ambassador, 'he regarded the Imperial Govern- 
ment as morally condemned/ l 

President Alison was determined, once the bridge was 
crossed, to wage war with the utmost vigor. By tempera- 
ment and conviction he was likely to be as dogged in his re- 
solve to administer a complete defeat to Germany as he had 
been slow to resign the policy of neutrality. 'When the 
President turned from Peace to War/ wrote Colonel House 
to Lord Bryce, 'he did it with the same resolute purpose that 
has always guided him/ 2 This determination was fortified 
by an increasing realization that hopes of a speedy victory 
were not likely to be fulfilled. Many months of intense effort 
would be necessary before the United States could bring 
active military assistance to the Allies. In the meantime 
fortune seemed to turn towards Germany. 

On the Western Front the carefully laid plans for continu- 
ing the Somme offensive were disturbed by a change in the 
Allied command, resulting in the defeat of General Nivelle 
on the Chemin des Dames in April. A crisis of war-weariness 
followed in France. For the remainder of the year French 
armies, undergoing a moral and material reorganization 
under General P6tain, were unable to attempt any major 
offensive. In the East, the Russian revolution of March led 
to the crumbling of all organization, whether economic or 
military. The dissolving of the ideal and forms of discipline 
had its inevitable effects. Behind the lines the spirit of chaos 

1 Bernstorff, My Three Years in America, 385. 
8 House to Bryce, June 10, 1917. 


penetrated the economic life of Russia, at the same time that 
it attacked the army and navy. No longer could the Allies 
count on help from the colossus of the East which had proved 
of such avail in 1914 and 1916. 

While events on the two main fighting fronts thus rescued 
Germany from the defeat that seemed to be impending after 
the Battle of the Somme, she launched the submarine attack 
upon which her leaders had gambled to achieve positive 
victory. * At the time it was a gamble perhaps but not a 
wild one/ l Great Britain had become the mainstay of the 
Entente; her troops must take up the offensive during the 
period that P6tain had to spend in nursing his armies back 
to vigor; her munitions, her tonnage, her financial credit had 
become critical factors in a war that would be decided by the 
side with most reserves. France had borne the brunt of the 
great German attacks of 1914 and 1916; it was now the turn 
of the British. Thus there was much to encourage the 
Germans in their hope that if the submarine could isolate 
England and destroy her mercantile marine, they would end 
the war victoriously. And if the success of the intensive sub- 
marine campaign after three months was less than had been 
promised, it was sufficient to bring the British and the En- 
tente as a whole into very real peril. 

'The whole war effort of the Allies was soon threatened 
with disaster' writes the Chairman of the Allied Maritime 
Transport Executive, 'and all the main European Allies 
were in imminent danger of starvation. . . . The opening 
success of the new campaign was staggering. In the first 
three months 470 ocean-going ships (including all classes of 
ships the total was 1000) had been sunk. In a single fort- 
night in April 122 ocean-going vessels were lost. The rate 
of the British loss hi ocean-going tonnage during this fort- 
night was equivalent to an average round voyage loss of 25 

1 Sailer, Allied Shipping Control, 121. 


per cent one out of every four ships leaving the United 
Kingdom for an overseas voyage was being lost before its 
return. The continuance of this rate of loss would have 
brought disaster upon all the Allied campaigns, and might 
well have involved an unconditional surrender.' * 

Just as vital to Allied success as British tonnage was the 
maintenance of British credit, which in the two preceding 
years had, to a large extent, been providing for the purchas- 
ing of necessary supplies for the Entente. British gold and 
credit had paid for the mass of food supplies, munitions, and 
various manufactured products which the United States ex- 
ported to the Allied countries; Great Britain not merely 
financed its own war trade but advanced large credits to 
France and Italy and the smaller Allies. But the spring of 
1917 brought British finance to the verge of collapse. British 
balances in the United States were at the point of exhaustion. 
Without immediate financial assistance from the United 
States Government it seemed certain that trade between 
America and the Allies would cease, the war needs of the 
Allies could not be met, and Allied credit would collapse. 
Mr. Ball our, who in a long career had always been careful 
to avoid exaggeration, stated definitely that *a calamity* 
was impending, 2 


Thus the United States entered the war at a moment when 
the fortunes ol the Entente, military, economic, and political, 
were depressed to an extent that was appreciated by very 
\^N \sv ^ \3\MteA. S&ate* and not many more in Europe. 
President Wilson's war speech of April 2 had been received 
throughout the country with a sort of sober gladness; his 
long-stretched patience had convinced all but a handful that 

1 Salter, op. cz/., 77, 121. 

1 Mr. Balfour's reference was to the difficult financial situation. 


participation in the war was forced upon us; the Nation was 
instilled with the desire to contribute everything possible to 
German defeat. But there was a general impression that 
Germany was on its last legs, little suspicion that defeat and 
victory were still being weighed in the balance, hardly a 
guess that if the effort of America was to count it must be 
tremendous and immediate. 

Even those Americans whose sources of information were 
numerous and authoritative only gradually came to appreci- 
ate how serious the situation was from the Allied point of 
view. This was not surprising when we consider that the 
extent of the war was so vast that no one person in Europe 
had a bird's-eye survey, and it was only as the news of the 
various sorts of reverses, military and political, drifted in 
that the character of the Allied problem became clear. 

Colonel House's papers, containing a multitude of letters 
and reports from Europe, reflect the increasing realization 
of the need of American aid. In February they are colored 
by the jubilation of the Entente over the dismissal of Bern- 
storff and the prospect of American participation. A letter 
from Lord Bryce to House, of February 16, suggested indeed 
that in the event America entered the war 'a small number' 
of United States troops should be sent to the front; but 
Bryce obviously had in mind the moral rather than the 
military effect and he spoke of the * already dispirited 
Germans/ Early in March, however, House recorded a con- 
versation with a friend 'who had recently returned from 
England and presents a dismal story. ... It is important be- 
cause he is one oi General Lord French's closest friends and 
he probably reflects French's opinion.' 

House himself, after the diplomatic rupture with Germany 
but before our formal entrance into the war, was evidently 
not in favor of a large American expeditionary force. He 
agreed with Wilson's insistence upon the most complete in- 
dustrial organization that might be necessary to consolidate 


the full strength of the United States against Germany; but 
he feared that the attempt to create for ourselves a complete 
military machine and the desire to figure upon the scene of 
battle would divert energy from the less spectacular but 
more essential task of aiding the Allies in the manner they 
most desired. This was evidently in his mind when he wrote 
to the President a fortnight before the declaration of a state 
of war. 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, March 19, 1917 


Captain Gherardi, our Naval Attach^ at Berlin, who re- 
turned via Paris, tells me that the French Admiralty and 
officers in the French Army told him that France badly 
needed steel billets, coal and other raw materials. They also 
told him that this war would be won by the nations whose 
morale lasted longest. 

They estimated that the morale of the French troops was 
lifted 25 per cent when the United States broke with Ger- 

The strain upon the English to furnish materials for Rus- 
sia, France and Italy has been so great that they are now un- 
able to recruit for the army any further. 

Everybody I have talked to connected with the English 
and French Governments tells me that if we intend to help 
defeat Germany it will be necessary for us to begin immedi- 
ately to furnish the things the Allies are lacking. 

It has seemed to me that we should constitute ourselves a 
huge reservoir t6 supply the Allies with the things they most 
need. No one looks with favor upon our raising a large army 
at the moment, believing it would be better if we would per- 
mit volunteers to enlist in the Allied armies. 

It seems to me that we can no longer shut our eyes to the 
fact that we are already in the war and that if we will indicate 


our purpose to throw all our resources against Germany it is 
bound to break their morale and bring the war to an earlier 
close. Affectionately yours 


Colonel House's opinion that it would be misdirected 
effort to build a large American army was doubtless that of 
many Americans at this period. 1 That he was wrong became 
obvious after the events of the spring indicated the complete 
failure of the French offensive and the collapse of Russia's 
military strength. House himself changed his mind as re- 
ports of the increasing danger came in. Of these the most 
persuasive were sent to him, for the President's information, 
by his friend Mr. Arthur Hugh Frazier, Counsellor of the 
American Embassy in Paris. The reports were based upon 
what Mr. Frazier described as 'most confidential informa- 
tion . . . furnished by the French War Office/ In his opinion 
it was 'evident that the so-called information on this subject 
which is published in the public press is very inaccurate and 
altogether too optimistic/ 

The French memoranda painted the situation in gloomy 
tints, perhaps the more effectively to emphasize the need of 
immediate assistance. But there was no escaping the sta- 
tistics regarding the relative man-power of France and Ger- 
many, nor the conclusion of the French War Office that after 
some thousand days of war Germany still possessed, in the 
military and political sense, a powerful machine: strong in 
men and materials of war, strong in its solidarity. 

'It results,' a supplementary memorandum from Mr. 
Frazier added, 'that after almost three years of war the 

1 This opinion was shared by many persons abroad. Andr6 Tardieu 
writes (France and America, 218): 'Every one looked upon the United 
States as a vast reservoir from which European forces and supplies could 
be fed. No one believed it capable of creating a new army to be added 
to those already in line. Every one believed it would be dangerous to 
make the attempt/ 


Allies see themselves reduced by circumstances for a certain 
period longer, to a most disheartening inertia. The French 
people sorely tried by the privations and losses of a great 
war have before them several months of suffering without, as 
far as Europe is concerned, the stimulating hope of an en- 
couraging event to help them bear up, and necessarily their 
minds will turn toward interior difficulties. The moment to 
be passed is rather critical. In such a juncture ... it is 
deemed most important by the French that the United States 
should immediately send an important army to Europe. As 
for the Germans who universally believe that America's land 
participation in the war will be limited to sending money and 
supplies to the Allies, the arrival of an American army on the 
Western Front could but dismay this people already begin- 
ning surely to suffer from a fatigue due to a long war. . . .' * 

The attitude which President Wilson assumed towards 
American cooperation was that in all large questions the 
United States must be guided by the experience which the 
Allies had gained in almost three years of fighting. If they 
wanted an expeditionary force for its moral or its material 
value, he believed the United States should send it. That the 
man-power as well as the munitions of America might ulti- 
mately become necessary to Allied victory was a conclusion 
naturally to be drawn from the increasing indications of the 
Russian collapse. In mid-May House received the report 
of an American agent in Germany, forwarded to him by 
Maurice Egan, American Minister at Copenhagen. 

Report on Conditions in Germany 

* Russia is regarded as being eliminated from a military 
standpoint for this year. There is an enormous [German] 
reserve army in the West, the largest reserve army which 

1 On April 8, Norman Hapgood cabled House that Nivelle and Pain- 
levfe 'plead privately for Americans in small groups for French army. 
Say would mean salvation.' 


Germany has had at any time during the war. Officers and 
men from the Eastern Front, with whom I talked, told me 
that the Russians and Germans fraternize freely between the 
lines. The quiet in the East has enabled Germany to con- 
centrate all munitions for the West. 

'The strong depression in Germany two months ago has 
been effaced by the U-boat successes as published in Ger- 
many. Not in a year has confidence been so rockbound as at 
present. . . . 

'The food situation is better than I expected to find it. The 
next eight weeks will see it at its very worst, but Russian 
chaos, U-boat successes, failure of the French and British to 
get through in West, strengthens the people's fortitude, and 
there is much less complaint than I expected. . . . 

'Military circles regard America's entrance as an admission 
on the part of England that she cannot defeat Germany, 
[has] thereby abdicated her leadership against Germany, 
and that the war now really is between Germany and 
America ' 

From London Charles Grasty, whose repute as a journalist 
secured for him numerous personal contacts and sources of in- 
formation, wrote to House that while the English were 'more 
confident than ever/ the London newspaper offices were con- 
vinced that the new Government in Russia was composed of 
a 'thoroughly corrupt set of grafters.' The French, he said, 
were on their 'last legs' when the United States entered the 
war, and the friction between political and military elements 
still clouded hope. 

A month later House regarded the European situation 
with extreme disquiet. The British Foreign Office had just 
sent him an urgent cable, explaining the acute financial 
crisis and the need of immediate help. He recorded in his 
diary on the last day of June that the 'panicky cable which 
came to me yesterday is alarming. 


"I see evidences of all the belligerents weakening, and the 
cracking process being actively at work. My letters from 
France indicate that the condition there is serious, and it 
is a question whether they will be able to hold out during 
the year. Great Britain I have counted upon but if she is 
going to pieces financially because certain funds are not given 
her, or certain debts paid, the situation is not reassuring.' 


A few years after the close of the war Colonel House wrote 
that 'no matter how discouraging the situation might appear 
at any particular moment, my belief in ultimate success 
never wavered, and chiefly because of my perfect confidence 
in Wilson's capacity for popular leadership/ That quality 
the President never displayed more effectively than at the 
very moment of our entrance into the war, when he im- 
pressed upon the nation that each citizen was essentially a 
soldier: thereby he evoked not merely enthusiasm, but a 
willingness to submit to organized discipline which was 
scarcely to be expected from so individualistic a people. 

'In the sense in which we have been wont to think of 
armies,' said Wilson, * there are no armies in this struggle, 
there are entire nations armed. ... A nation needs all men; 
but it needs each man, not in the field that will most pleasure 
him, but in the endeavor that will best serve the common 
good. Thus, though a sharpshooter pleases to operate a trip- 
hammer for the forging of great guns and an expert machinist 
desires to march with the flag, the nation is being served only 
when the sharpshooter marches and the machinist remains 
at his levers. The whole nation must be a team, in which 
each man shall play the part for which he is best fitted/ l 

It was not the least of the triumphs of the United States 
that the Nation was made to feel itself part of the fighting 
1 Proclamation of the Selective Draft Act, May 18, 1917, 


forces and cooperated enthusiastically in the organization of 
the national resources. The process was inevitably of an 
emergency character, for the United States possessed no 
bureaucratic system comparable to those of Europe, which 
could immediately begin the necessary task of coordinating 
the national industries for the supply of the army. Every 
firm in every line of production was competing in the manu- 
facture of essential and unessential articles, in transporta- 
tion, in bidding for and holding the necessary labor. The 
army itself was decentralized, did not form or state its re- 
quirements as one body, but through five supplies bureaus 
which acted independently and in competition with each 
other. Bids for materials from the different bureaus con- 
flicted with each other, with those of the navy, and of the 
Allies. From this chaos order must be evolved before the 
United States could bring effective assistance to Europe, and 
in the nature of things it was many months before the neces- 
sary centralization was secured, whether in the strictly mili- 
tary sphere through the General Staff or in the industrial 
through the War Industries Board. 

Characteristically the President avoided the creating of 
new machinery so far as possible. He believed always in 
evolution rather than in revolution. It was this tendency 
and not mere partisanship which led him to refuse the de- 
mand for a coalition cabinet which should include members 
of the Republican Party. As a student of politics he had 
never had any confidence in the efficiency of coalition govern- 
ment, and he assumed that the demand was based upon 
selfish motives. 1 

On the other hand, President Wilson was determined to 
keep partisan politics out of the war organization. He told 
House in February that so far as the foreign service was con- 
cerned he would not permit party affiliations to have any 
influence upon the selection of candidates, and he was 

1 Wilson to House, February 12, 1917. 


minded to apply the same principle to war appointments. 
Colonel House was entirely of the same mind and did all 
that he could to harmonize the differences between the Re- 
publicans and the Democrats. He discussed the organization 
of the House of Representatives with Mr. Willcox, Chairman 
of the Republican Committee. 1 In March he wrote the 
President that the British Ambassador reported that Senator 
Lodge had * expressed a desire to cooperate with you in the 
future and Sir Cecil thinks if you will meet him halfway, 
this can be brought about. If you get Lodge it will probably 
mean the other Republican Senators upon the [Foreign Re- 
lations] Committee.' 2 A few weeks later: 'I am glad that 
you saw Roosevelt. I hope that you will send for Lodge also. 
It looks as if you would have to depend largely upon Republi- 
can support to cany through your war measures. Did you 
see the admirable speech that Root made last night at the 
Republican Club?' 3 

As it turned out, personal cooperation between the mem- 
bers of the Administration and the Republican leaders was 
never very cordial, although partisan issues were by common 
consent excluded from Congressional debates. But President 
Wilson, in his appointments to the new war boards, to mili- 
tary and civil positions of the first importance, made his 
choice without regard to political factors and probably in 
general without knowing what might be the party affiliations 
of the appointees. So much was certainly true in the cases 
of such men as Pershing, Sims, Hoover, Goethals, Schwab, 
Davison. It is true that neither Colonel Roosevelt nor 
General Wood was given a command in France; but the evi- 
dence is overwhelming that in each case the decision was not 
made by the President but by the military experts of the 
General Staff. 

1 House to Wilson, March 30, 1917. 
House to Wilson, March 14, 1917. 
House to Wilson, April 10, 1917. 


In this new war organization Colonel House held no formal 
position and exercised no official functions. The President 
had offered 'with the deepest pleasure and alacrity' to place 
him wherever he was willing to be placed. 1 But House pre- 
'f erred always to avoid office. Because of his personal rela- 
tions with Wilson and at the President's desire he was none 
the less drawn into an unbroken series of informal confer- 
ences, the gist of which when important was sent down to 
Washington, and when unimportant shunted aside and pre- 
Vented from confusing the already overburdened officials. 
Although he was rarely in the capital, he had daily conversa- 
tions with members of the Government and the President, 
for a private telephone ran directly from his study to the 
'State Department. 'It is only necessary to lift off the re- 
ceiver, and I reach Folk's desk immediately. ... It gives me 
constant touch with Washington.' The telephone was ex- 
tended to Magnolia when House left New York for the sum- 
mer, so that his immediate connection with the capital re- 
hiained unbroken. 

The papers of Colonel House record a kaleidoscope of per- 
sonal contacts. To his small study on Fifty-Third Street 
came all sorts and conditions. It was there that he discussed 
with Paderewski the plans for the formation of a Polish 
army, the raising of funds for Polish relief, the political char- 
^cter of the Poland that was to be revived by the future 
Peace Conference, and its boundaries. 2 Thither came the 
Ambassadors of all the Allied nations and the special com- 
missioners in charge of the problems of finance and supplies. 
There, or, if it were summer time, to his house in Magnolia 
('all the roads lead ultimately to Magnolia,' said Northcliffe 

1 Wilson to House, February 6, 1917. 

1 Cf. the speech made at Warsaw, on February 20, 1919, by Pade- 
rewski, Prime Minister of the new Polish Republic: 'The great results 
obtained in America ought to be attributed to my sincere friend, the 
friend of all the Poles . . . Colonel Edward House,' Indtpendance Polq- 
naise, February 22, 1919, 


in August), Colonel House talked with unofficial envoys: 
with Henri Bergson, the distinguished French philosopher, 
concerning methods of cooperation with France; l with T. P. 
O'Connor, who outlined the Irish situation 'a good con- 
versationalist, has an Irish brogue, takes snuff like a gentle- 
man of the eighteenth century/ Labor leaders like Peter 
Brady, socialists like Max Eastman, journalists like Herbert 
Croly and Lincoln Colcord, British and American Major- 
Generals, bankers, members of the Administration and mem- 
bers of the Republican Party with all of them House 
talked so as to have an insight into each situation from as 
many angles as seemed necessary to get a true picture, so 
that it might be passed on to the President. 'It is a weari- 
some job, but I keep at it/ 

To him came also those especially interested because of 
their position or knowledge, in the shipping, food, aircraft, 
coal, and Red Cross problems. Members of the Advisory 
Commission of the Council on National Defense explained 
their anxieties and submitted their proposals for the co- 
ordination of government purchasing and fixing of prices. 
His days were a continual turmoil; telephone calls, telegrams, 
letters, and personal interviews occupied every waking hour. 
To his callers House gave encouragement, sometimes advice; 
but he served them chiefly by putting them in touch with 
the proper official authority. 

If the callers on Colonel House were measured by the hun- 
dreds, the letters written to him during this period, when he 
acted as the auditory nerve of the Administration, are to be 
reckoned by thousands. His files are crammed with applica- 
tions for government positions from college presidents and 
professors, the heads of great industrial corporations, camou- 
flage artists, journalists (some of them since not undistin- 

1 Colonel House's papers record various conversations with M. Bergson 
in the United States and in Paris and there are letters from the French 
philosopher expressed in the most intimate terms. 


guished), professional organizers. A politician of some note 
suggests that he will accept a cabinet position, or would like 
to become a member of the Peace Commission. There are 
myriads of memoranda to be handed over to the proper 
official: 'Will you be good enough to inform me if you can 
suggest any method of getting a prompt decision from the 
War Department on this important matter?' There are let- 
ters of gratitude, not quite so numerous indeed: ' I know that 
I am indebted to you for this honor and you know how I 
thank you for it/ 

Those planning the mobilization of scientific and indus- 
trial effort sent him their memoranda for criticism; 1 in- 
dustrialists wrote him on the proper method to settle the coal 
or the railroad problem; financiers wrote regarding the tax 
plan of the Secretary of the Treasury; naval experts on the 
policy of Secretary Daniels; journalists on the unsatisfactory 
relations between the Administration and the Press, which 

'have become intolerably tangled If something could be 

done to straighten it out, it would have an immense influ- 
ence on the conduct of the war/ Pacifists sent him plans for 
the ideal peace settlement; experts or pseudo-experts wrote 
concerning the dehydrating of food, the destruction of Ger- 
man crops by salt scattered from airplanes, the introduction 
of a system of portable moving pictures to enliven the 
addresses of patriotic orators. 

If Colonel House had passed on to Washington a hun- 
dredth part of the applications or the information which thus 
came to him, it is not likely that he would have long main- 
tained friendly relations with the Administration. What fil- 
tered through him was evidently regarded as valuable, for 
the letters of the President breathe not merely affection but 
gratitude : I am grateful to you all the time . . . and every- 
thing you do makes me more so You may have entirely 

1 Cf. Report of Advisory Commission of Council on National Defense, 
by Dr. Hollis Godfrey. 


satisfactory replies to my objections. . . , Will you not write 

me again. Your grateful friend 1 devour and profit by 

all your letters. 1 

President Wilson invoked the advice of House, as in the 
early days of his administration, in making the new appoint- 
ments and arranging for the new organizations that resulted 
from our entrance into the war. The President left it to him 
to develop the suggestion of Cleveland Dodge, that H. P. 
Davison be induced to accept the war organization of the 
American Red Cross. * Dodge wants Davison to be the 
executive head of the Red Cross/ wrote House in April, 
4 believing that it will mean the difference between a five 
million proposition and a fifty million/ 2 Davison undertook 
the great task, which House later described as 'perhaps the 
finest piece of executive management accomplished during 
the entire war/ Through his visits and letters House was 
kept in close touch with the initial difficulties that Davison 
overcame. 8 

President Wilson also asked House to take up with Mr. 
Hoover, who had achieved the miracle of Belgian relief, the 
conditions under which he would assume control of the food 
problem. On April 6, Mr. Hugh Gibson, who as secretary of 
the American legation at Brussels had formed close relations 
with Mr. Hoover, wrote to House that 'he is evidently 
anxious to go to work* ; he enclosed a cable from Mr. Hoover: 
'Relief will be fully organized within ten days and I shall be 
available for any appropriate service if wanted/ On April 18, 
Norman Hapgood wrote to House that Mr. Hoover was 
sailing for the United States. ' He is somewhat worried : does 
not wish to undertake the work unless enough independence 
goes with it to make it successful: that is, he would not want 

1 Wilson to House, June 1, July 21, August 16, 1917. 
1 In the end Davison raised approximately four hundred million. 
1 Davison to House, July 25, August 8, August 17, August 24, Septem- 
ber 1, September 5, September 21, 1917. 


to be under any department. I am writing this more tact- 
fully to the President and Secretary Houston, but to you 
I may speak without indirection.' 

Mr. Hoover landed in New York on May 3, and came up 
to House's apartment that afternoon. 'He has a well- 
thought-out and comprehensive plan/ wrote House in his 

diary, 'if he can only put it into execution Hoover knows 

the question of food control as no other man does, and he has 
energy and driving force/ 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, May 4, 1917 


Hoover, as you know, is just back. I hope you will see 
him. ... He has some facts that you should know. He can 
tell you the whole story in about forty minutes, for I timed 

I trust Houston will give him full powers as to food con- 
trol. He knows it better than any one in the world and would 
inspire confidence both in Europe and here. Unless Houston 
does give him full control I am afraid he will be unwilling to 
undertake the job, for he is the kind of man that has to have 
complete control in order to do the thing well 

Affectionately yours 


Mr. Hoover was at once appointed Food Commissioner. 
In August, by the Lever Act, the President was empowered 
to create the Food Administration, at the head of which he 
placed Mr. Hoover with almost dictatorial powers. These he 
exercised with a combination of tact and enthusiasm which 
inspired the complete cooperation of the entire country. 
Without food cards or statutes, purely through the force of 
public opinion and of voluntary self-sacrifice, the Food Ad- 
ministration accomplished the economies and the extra pro- 


duction necessary to meet the famine that threatened our 
European associates in the war. 

Colonel House was also commissioned by the President 
to discuss with General Goethals, the constructor of the 
Panama Canal, who had just been appointed the head of the 
Emergency Fleet Corporation, the conditions necessary to 
producing new ships in sufficient numbers to offset the 
ravages of the submarines. 

'April 21, 1917: 1 went up to Mezes' for dinner to meet 
General George Goethals. ... It has been a long time since 
I have met any one I like so well. He is modest and able. 
I feel he is something like Kitchener, slow but sure. The 
undertaking which he has in mind needs celerity rather than 
thoroughness. . . . 

'He told of the difficulties. He agreed it would be better to 
use steel because the ships would be lighter by 15 per cent, 
therefore they would bear that much more cargo, and they 
would be more valuable for a merchant marine after the war. 

'He believes if the President will permit him to comman- 
deer certain steel products which foreigners have contracted 
for, and to commandeer shipyards which are now building 
for foreign accounts, he can make a creditable showing 
within a year. The people will be disappointed because the 
tonnage will be far less than anticipated. Goethals doubts 
whether he can do better than two million tons the first year, 
and he does not believe he can get out any tonnage before 
October 1st. 

'May 2, 1917: Paderewski followed Grasty to discuss 
Polish matters. Farrell, Bedford, and Moore l came upon his 
heels. The purpose of their interview was to discuss how this 

1 James A. Farrell, President of the United States Steel Corporation; 
Alfred C. Bedford, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Standard 
Oil Company, and Chairman of the Petroleum Committee of the Council 
of National Defense; and George Gordon Moore, New York capitalist. 


country could most quickly supply the tonnage the Germans 
are destroying. I suggested General Goethals be communi- 
cated with and that Farrell, Goethals, and I get together 
here for luncheon or dinner Sunday and work it out. I would 
then place the matter before the President and ask him to 
give Goethals absolute authority and not have him hampered 
by the Shipping and other boards.' 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, May 6, 1917 


General Goethals took lunch with me to-day. He is very 
much disturbed over the delay in getting the shipbuilding 
programme started. He is already two weeks behind what 
he had counted on. This means a loss of 200,000 tons 
if, indeed, the building of tons can be speeded up within six 
months to 400,000 tons a month as he hopes 

Goethals, at my request, made the enclosed memorandum 
to show what in his opinion is immediately needful. If he 
can know by to-morrow or Tuesday if you favor these 
proposals he can make a start at once. 

The tonnage required cannot be built wholly of timber 
because, in the first place, there is not enough seasoned tim- 
ber in the country to anywhere near meet the requirements, 
and the wooden ships cannot be built as quickly as the steel 
nor are they as effective when built. 

Goethals has gone into the subject exhaustively and he 
declares there is no other way to meet the question. There 
are an infinite number of firms that have offered to build 
wooden ships, but he tells me that after inquiry he finds if 
contracts were let through these firms, they would never be 
able to carry them through. For instance, Florida offers to 
deliver a given number of wooden ships, but, upon investiga- 
tion, he says the different companies are counting largely 
upon the same material and the same labor and they would 


not be able to cany on construction for more than one tenth 
of the number contracted for. 

Please pardon me for bringing this matter to your atten- 
tion but it seems so vital, not only to our success in the war, 
but also to your own success, that I am doing so. 

If Russia can be held in line, if the shipbuilding pro- 
gramme can be accomplished and the food situation be met, 
the war must go against Germany. 

In order to carry through such a programme I know you 
will agree that it is necessary to place these matters almost 
wholly in the hands of one man, as it will never be possible 
to do it through boards or divided responsibility. 

Affectionately yours 


General Goethals 9 Memorandum 

1. Executive order placing the ship yards at the disposal 
of the Shipping Board or preferably the U.S. Shipping Board 
Emergency Fleet Corporation. 

2. Authority of the President to build steel ships in addi- 
tion to wooden ones. 

3. Appropriation of $500,000,000 for building 3,000,000 
tons of shipping. 

4. Appropriation of $250,000,000 to purchase ships now on 
the ways if found desirable. 

Estimate of $500,000,000 based on 3,000,000 tons at $155 
per ton. 

To this President Wilson replied immediately after receiv- 
ing it, that he had devoted practically his entire day to the 
shipbuilding problem; had had Mr. Denman, chairman of 
the Shipping Board up 'on the Hill/ explaining the neces- 
sities of the situation to the men 'upon whom we shall have 
to depend/ and that he was arranging for a series of con- 
ferences. It would not be possible to follow General GoethaTs 


programme 'in all its length/ but the President could 
promise to use his influence in this all-important matter to 
the utmost: General Goethals may be sure that I am on 
the job and that the way will be cleared as fast as possible 
for what I realize to be immediately and imperatively neces- 
sary He added that the German ships were being put 

in repair as fast as the shops could repair them and that the 
two interned German raiders would be named the Steuben 
and the DeKalb: That seemed to me to have a poetic pro- 
priety about it All of us unite in affectionate mes- 
sages. 1 

Unfortunately for the shipbuilding programme, the rela- 
tions between the Shipping Board and the Emergency Fleet 
Corporation did not prove harmonious, conflicts of author- 
ity and policy developed, and after months of wasted effort a 
complete reorganization became necessary. It was not until 
the following spring that American shipyards, under the 
driving leadership of Mr. C. M. Schwab, began to launch 
tonnage with the necessary speed. 


Conferences in which Colonel House found especial inter- 
est were those with foreign envoys. President Wilson asked 
him to undertake such relations in the belief that because of 
their purely unofficial character they might develop a frank- 
ness of expression that would be less likely if carried on by 
an official representative of the United States. The generous 
attitude and cooperation of the Secretary of State made such 
conferences possible and useful. For Mr. Lansing House felt 
admiration and affection. A decade later he wrote: 

'The country has never quite appreciated Lansing. No 
other Secretary of State had so difficult a task. The years of 
neutrality before we entered the war presented many delicate 

1 Wilson to House, May 7, 1917. 


and intricate situations, and a false step might have proved 
disastrous. He made none. 

'I shall always remember with gratitude his attitude 
toward me. My position was unusual and without precedent, 
and it would have been natural for him to object to my ven- 
tures in his sphere of activities. He never did. He was 
willing for me to help in any way the President thought best. 

'The country owes Lansing much and some day I hope 
appreciation may be shown for his services during the peril- 
ous days of the Great War.' l 

The following excerpts from House's papers throw light on 
the nature of the conferences he had with the Ambassadors: 

'May 2, 1917: The Japanese Ambassador took lunch with 
me and we had more than two hours' discussion. There was 
no one present other than ourselves. It is delightful to me 
to come in touch with Eastern diplomacy. Sato is an able 
fellow and maintained his position well. I got a glimpse of 
the Japanese Government and of the constitution under 
which they work. 

'The most important point of conversation occurred when 
he asked me whether or not this was a good time for his 
Government to take up with the Washington Government 
the unsettled questions between the two. He said when the 
war ended, all points which might cause friction between the 
United States and Japan should be smoothed out. This, he 
said, he understood to be the President's desire. I asked 
him to enumerate the points he had in mind. He spoke of 
the land law and our immigration laws as being the ones 
that hurt their national sensibilities most. He thought, how- 
ever, that if an arrangement could be made between the two 
countries by which no new adverse legislation would be 
enacted in the Western States against the Japanese, they 
might be satisfied. 

1 Colonel House to C. S., March 24, 1928. 


1 He understood the difficulty under which our Govern- 
ment was working, because of the rights of States to pass 
legislation which sometimes conflicted with the national pol- 
icy and with foreign treaties. 

'I advised Sato not to take these matters up officially at 
this time because it might leave a suspicion that it was done 
for the purpose of forcing a decision just as the United States 
was entering the war against the Central Powers. I advised 
that he give me a memorandum of his Government's views 
so that they might be discussed unofficially. He saw the 
point and agreed to do so. He is to give me the memorandum 
when he returns to Washington. He hesitated, however, 
about putting it in writing, saying his Government had not 
authorized him to take the matter up officially. . . . 

'The calmness, the poise and the placidity of this confer- 
ence delighted me. We were both as expressionless as graven 
images, and there was no raising of voices or undue emphasis 
upon any subject, no matter how important/ 

Ambassador Sato to Colonel House 

WASHINGTON, May 8, 1917 

For your kind reception and open-hearted talk which I 
had the pleasure of enjoying in New York, I wish you to 
accept my warm and sincere thanks. According to your sug- 
gestion, I have since prepared a memorandum succinctly 
setting forth the point which formed a part of our conversa- 
tion and I am taking the liberty to send it to you for what- 
ever use you may see fit. . . .* 

With high regard and cordial wishes, I beg you, Dear 
Colonel House, to believe me, 

Very sincerely yours 

1 See appendix to this chapter. 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, May 11, 1917 

Last week the Japanese Ambassador took lunch with me. 
Before the end of our conversation he wanted to know if I 
did not think it a good time to take up the differences exist- 
ing between our two governments 

I am enclosing you a copy of his letter and the memoran- 
dum and my reply. When you have leisure, will you not 
advise me concerning this. If Russia swings back to auto- 
cratic government, I think a close alignment between Ger- 
many, Japan, and Russia is certain 

Walter Rogers has just returned from the Far East. . . . 
He strongly advises a better news service to Japan, China, 
and Russia. I will not go into details, but from what I learn, 
not only from Rogers but from others, this is one of the 
crying needs of the moment. 

The general public in both Japan and China regard us as 
being almost as unwilling to fight as China herself, and none 
of our war preparations and but little of your addresses have 
reached the people. 

This can all be changed at very little cost. . . . 

Affectionately yours 


Although of later date, the following letter indicates 
House's interest in the Japanese problem which doubtless 
affected his opinion two years later on the Shantung question 
at the Peace Conference. 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, September 18, 1917 


... I had a talk with Roland Morris l to-day. I hope you 
will see him for ten or fifteen minutes before he leaves for 

1 Recently appointed Ambassador to Japan. 


Japan next Tuesday, in order to give him your viewpoint as 
to Far Eastern questions. I think he has the right view him- 
self and, if you agree with it, he will understand in what 
direction to proceed. 

We cannot meet Japan in her desires as to land and immi- 
gration, and unless we make some concessions in regard to 
her sphere of influence in the East, trouble is sure sooner or 
later to come. Japan is barred from all the undeveloped 
places of the earth, and if her influence in the East is not 
recognized as in some degree superior to that of the Western 
powers, there will be a reckoning. 

A policy can be formulated which will leave the open door, 
rehabilitate China, and satisfy Japan. Morris sees this 
clearly but needs your sanction, if, indeed, such a policy has 
your sanction. 

Affectionately yours 


With the new Russian Ambassador from the provisional 
government, Colonel House also maintained close relations. 
At various times during the summer the Russian envoy 
visited him, evidently believing that through the Colonel he 
had a means of presenting directly to President Wilson 
Russia's increasing need of assistance from the outside, if 
she were to be saved from going to pieces. 1 House endorsed 
his pleas for aid. *I do not think we can devote too much 
attention to the Russian situation/ he wrote the President, 
'for if that fails us our troubles will be great and many.' 

The relations of Colonel House with the French and 

1 On July 23, House wrote to Wilson: 'The Russian Ambassador was 
here yesterday. He tells me that he has gone the round of Cabinet officers 
and officials and is at the end of the passage regarding certain matters. 
He wanted to know whether he had better approach you with these ques- 
tions. I advised him again to press the proper officials rather than to take 
his troubles to you. I promised, however, to tell you of them.' House 
then summarized M. BakhmetiefTs report on Russian needs. 


British Ambassadors were of quite a different nature, for they 
rested upon sincere personal friendship. He had fought 
through with them the troublesome issues of the days of 
American neutrality, when United States interests frequently 
had clashed directly with those of the Allies. These differ- 
ences had apparently not shaken the confidence of the Am- 
bassadors in House, and they had certainly not affected his 
respect and admiration for them. * Jusserand knew America/ 
wrote House, 'as he knew Europe. His familiarity with the 
President's personality and views, due to his long residence 
in Washington, was of value in many dangerous situations. 
Jusserand had long been the closest tie between France and 
the United States and he had the respect and love of both 

Of Ambassador Spring-Rice, House later wrote: 'What a 
ruthless and destructive force is war! Here was perhaps the 
ablest and best-trained member of the British diplomatic 
service. There was no one who possessed to a greater degree 
the affection and confidence of his chiefs, and no one was 
more deserving. With all his accomplishments he possessed 
a personal charm that made him a multitude of friends. But 
when war broke loose he had a serious illness. Under ordi- 
nary circumstances he would soon have righted himself, but 
with the stress of disasters coming day by day, he could not 
regain his normal health. On he had to go, impelled by a 
high sense of patriotism and duty. He went as far and as 
hard as he could, but what he could not do he was willing 
should be done by others. He was one of the few I have 
known who did not hesitate to yield his prerogatives in order 
that his country's interests might not suffer. Even so the 
task finally proved too great. He gave his life for his country 
as surely as though he had been slain on the field of battle.' 

In view of House's friendship for the Ambassadors of 
France and Great Britain, as well as because of his experience 
in Europe and his contacts with the political leaders of the 


Allied Powers, President Wilson placed particular confidence 
in the Colonel's judgment on all matters of foreign relations: 
You are closer in touch, he wrote him in the early summer, 
with what is being said and thought on the other side of the 
water than we are here, 1 

It was thus not unnatural that Mr. Wilson should have 
called House into active participation in the first important 
conferences with representatives of the Allies, which took 
place shortly after our entrance into the war. 


Ambassador Sato's Memorandum 

The Japanese-American question which calls for an immediate adjust- 
ment, is that of the treatment of the resident Japanese in this country. 
What Japan desires is nothing more than the enjoyment of the most 
favored nation treatment. That desideratum may be attained in my 
personal opinion, by the adoption of some of the following means: 

1. By Treaty. 

a. By concluding an independent treaty, mutually guaranteeing to the 
citizens and subjects, the most favored nation treatment, in matters of 
property and other rights relative to the exercise of industries, occupa- 
tions, and other pursuits. Negotiations in this line were for some time 
conducted between Secretary Bryan and Ambassador Chinda, which, 
however, for reasons I need not here state, have since been in abeyance. 

b. By revising the existing commercial treaty between our two coun- 
tries, so as to conform, in its stipulations, to similar engagements between 
Japan and various European powers, which guarantee, in principle, the 
most favored nation treatment, in the enjoyment of property rights and 
in all that relates to the pursuit of industries, callings and educational 

2. By American legislation. 

Although the subject is not fit for international discussion, it may be 
mentioned that a constitutional amendment restraining any State from 
making and enforcing any law discriminatory against aliens in respect to 
the property and other civil rights, will prove a far-reaching remedy. In 
fact a resolution with the same object in view has, I understand, been 
introduced in Congress lately. 

In this connection, I may state the fact that the provisions of racial 
distinction in the present naturalization law, were, in a number of in- 
stances, made use of for the purpose of depriving Japanese subjects of the 
rights and privileges of a civil nature. Although the wisdom of the law is 
in itself a matter of national and not international concern, the unfortu- 

1 Wilson to House, June 1, 1917, 


nate circumstance that certain provisions of that law furnish a pretext for 
the impairment of alien civil rights, should, I may be allowed to remark, 
constitute a fit subject for legislative attention. 

The comparative merits of each means should be studied by both 
Governments in the light of expediency and feasibility. Whether the 
adoption of any one means will be sufficient to cover the whole ground is 
a matter upon which precaution forbids me to pass a final judgment at 
present, but I am strongly convinced that each means will go a long dis- 
tance towards a complete solution of the question. 

Before concluding, I desire to touch upon the subject of immigration. 
The question whether Japanese laborers shall be admitted or not, has 
been consummately solved by the continued faithful observance by 
Japan of the so-called Gentleman's Agreement. So far as the Japanese 
Government is concerned, it is no longer in the realm of living questions, 
and in my view, it would serve the best interests of both nations to leave 
the question as it is. 


It pleased me to have Balfour rise with enthusiasm to the suggestion that 
Great Britain and the United States would stand together for a just 


Colonel House's Diary, April 22, 1917 

PRESIDENT WILSON realized that the new war organization 
of the United States must be developed, not upon abstract 
principles, but in direct relation to the special needs of the 
Allies. The problem was not so much to get ready for war 
as to supply those things men, ships, credit in which 
the Allies were running short. The entrance of the United 
States into the war enhanced the potential resources of the 
anti-German group tremendously, but it would be of small 
practical value if it brought an isolated effort and not real 
cooperation. Germany had counted on the probability that 
America's effort, undertaken without adequate preparation, 
would not affect the outcome of the war, which was to be 
settled by the submarine. The gamble might succeed if close 
correlation were not at once established between the neces- 
sities of the Allies and the ability of the United States to 
satisfy them. As Sir William Wiseman wrote to House in 
September, 1917: Germany's greatest asset is the three 
thousand miles that separates Washington from London/ 

The futility of an isolated American effort was keenly 
appreciated by the President and his advisers, and it was 
largely as a result of American insistence, especially on the 
part of Secretary McAdoo and the heads of the war boards, 
that full cooperation was finally secured. The process was 
necessarily slow, for American opinion had to be educated to 
both the need and the opportunity. There was then, as there 


will always be, a modicum of opinion which insisted that the 
United States had been lured into the war by designing inter- 
ests for the purpose of pulling Entente chestnuts from the 
fire. President Wilson himself was careful always to keep 
the United States distinct from any hard-and-fast war 
alliance, and introduced the phrase * associated power' to 
indicate the status of this country in its relation to the 
Allied powers of Europe. 

The Allied Governments were well-informed of the various 
conditions in the United States which affected the problem 
of American cooperation. Through the British and French 
Ambassadors who had many friends in Republican circles, 
they followed the trend of unofficial opinion. They relied 
also upon the reports of the British chief of secret service, 
Sir William Wiseman, who because of his close contacts with 
Colonel House was regarded as an authoritative exponent 
of President Wilson's policy. 1 A carefully drafted memoran- 
dum of Wiseman, which before going to the British Govern- 
ment was read by President Wilson and pronounced by him 
to be 'an accurate summary/ explains the difficulty as well 
as the importance of the problem of American cooperation 
from the Allied point of view. 

Memorandum on American Cooperation 


'The sentiment of the country would be strongly against 
joining the Allies by any formal treaty. Subconsciously 
they [the Americans] feel themselves to be arbitrators rather 
than allies. On the other hand, the people are sincere in their 
determination to crush Prussian autocracy, and in their 
longing to arrive at some settlement which will make future 
wars impossible. 

'It is important to realize that the American people do not 
consider themselves in any danger from the Central Powers. 

1 See Intimate Papers of Colonel House, 11, 400. 



It is true that many of their statesmen foresee the danger of 
a German triumph, but the majority of the people are still 
very remote from the war. They believe they are fighting 
for the cause of Democracy and not to save themselves. 

'There still remains a mistrust of Great Britain, inherited 
from the days of the War of Independence, and kept alive 
by the ridiculous history books still used in the national 
schools. On the other hand there is the historical sympathy 
for France, and trouble could far more easily be created 
between the British and the Americans than with any of our 
allies. German propaganda naturally follows this line, and 
has been almost entirely directed against England 

'Any pronouncement [the Allied Governments] can make 
which will help the President to satisfy the American people 
that their efforts and sacrifices will reap the disinterested 
reward they hope for, will be gratifying to him, and in its 
ultimate result serve to commit America yet more whole- 
heartedly to the task in hand. The more remote a nation is 
from the dangers of the war the more necessary it becomes 
to have some symbol or definite goal to keep constantly 
before it. The Americans are accustomed to follow a " slogan " 
or simple formula. The President realized this when he gave 
them the watchword that America was fighting "To make 
the world safe for Democracy "; but the time has come when 
something more concrete and detailed is needed. 

'Our diplomatic task is to get enormous quantities of sup- 
plies from the United States while we have no means of 
bringing pressure to bear upon them to this end. We have 
to obtain vast loans, tonnage, supplies and munitions, food, 
oil, and other raw materials. And the quantities which we 
demand, while not remarkable in relation to the output of 
other belligerents, are far beyond the figures understood by 
the American public to-day. 

'The Administration are ready to assist us to the limit 
of the resources of their country; but it is necessary for them 


to educate Congress and the Nation to appreciate the actu 
meaning of these gigantic figures. It is not enough for us 
assure them that without these supplies the war will be los 
For the public ear we must translate dollars and tonnaj 
into the efforts and achievements of the fleets and the armie 
We must impress upon them the fighting value of the 

'The Administration are too far from the war, and ha^ 
not sufficient information, to judge the merits of these d 
mands. The Allies will have to use patience, skill, and i] 
genuity in assisting the American authorities to arrive at 
solution of this one grave difficulty, which is in a phras 
"The coordination of Allied requirements."* 

The Allies were anxious to secure close diplomatic cc 
operation with the United States so soon as our entrance int 
the war appeared likely. A week after the dismissal c 
Bernstorff, Mr. Balfour's Secretary, Sir Eric Drummonc 
wrote as follows to Colonel House: 

Sir Eric Drummond to Colonel House 

LONDON, February 9, 1917 

Mr. Balfour is sending a telegram to our diplomatic repn 
sentatives to tell them that he considers that full and fran 
cooperation between British and United States diplomatist 
and agents is one of the most important factors of the wa] 
He is further telling them that he relies on them to d 
everything in their power to secure such cooperation. 

This ought to avoid any possibility of relations being any 
where impaired by local suspicions. 

Yours very sincerely 


Existing diplomatic agencies, however, would hardly suf 


fice to develop and maintain the sort of relations which the 
entrance of the United States into the war made essential; 
they would demand the attention of highly expert technical 
advisers and organizers. No matter how able the Ambassa- 
dors, their routine duties would interfere with the new pro- 
blems of belligerent coordination. Furthermore it would be 
difficult for the same men who had borne the strain of the 
discussions relating to neutral trade, the blacklist, and the 
holding up of American mails, to meet the new conditions. 

Immediately following the President's speech asking for 
a war declaration, the British Government considered the 
advisability of sending to the United States a special mission, 
the obvious purpose of which should be to put at the disposal 
of our Government the experience gained by Great Britain 
in nearly three years of war and which might also bring the 
British into closer touch with the situation in America. The 
importance of the mission was indicated by the choice of 
Mr. Balfour, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as its chief. 

Sir Eric Drummond to Colonel House 


LONDON, April 5, 1917 

May I offer you my warmest congratulations on magnifi- 
cent speech of the President. 1 We are all deeply moved at 
its terms and tone. When Congress has responded to the 
great ideals which he has expressed, we trust consideration 
will be given to a commission, technically expert, being sent 
from here to place at the disposal of the United States Gov- 
ernment the experience gained in this country during the war. 

It has been suggested that Mr. Arthur Balfour should be 
the head of such a commission for a short time to coordinate 
its activity and to discuss wider issues involved. 

Would it be possible for you to give me your opinion pri- 

1 The speech of April 2, asking Congress to declare the existence of a 
state of war between Germany and the United States. 


vately on this? Your telegram would not, of course, be used 
to forward any proposal which would not meet with the warm 
approval of the President and your people; especially as the 
absence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs for even a few 
weeks has many inconveniences. 


Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, April 5, 1917 


I am enclosing a cable which has just come from Eric 
Drummond, Balfour's confidential secretary. Of course it is 
really Balfour speaking. 

Will you not advise me what reply to send. I do not see 
how you can well refuse this request, coming as it does. It 
might be well to have a Frenchman of equal distinction 
come at the same time. 

Balfour is the most liberal member of the present British 
Cabinet and it would be of great service to the relations of 
the two countries to have him here and to talk with him in 
person. Affectionately yours 


'April 6, 1917: Polk tells me over the telephone that the 
President read the cablegram at the Cabinet meeting to-day 
and they discussed the advisability of my sending a favorable 
response. . . . 

'The French Government have offered to send Joffre and 

Viviani over The only objection to their coming that 

I can see is that it might create an unfavorable feeling 
throughout the country that we are fighting more for the 
Allies than we are for the great principles laid down by the 
President in his April second speech.' 

Whatever his doubt of the effect upon certain strata of 


opinion, House's belief in the practical value that would 
result from the suggested missions was such that he wrote 
the following letter to the President, which indicates what 
was in his mind but which on second thought he did not 
send; perhaps he feared lest he might appear to be urging 
a personal conviction, 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, April 6, 1917 


The more I think of Balf our's proposal to come to America, 
the better it seems to me. It would put you in personal touch 
with one of the most influential men in the Empire and would 
increase your prestige enormously at the peace conference. 
I would like Balfour to know you and to take back his im- 
pressions so they might come from a less partisan voice than 
mine. If a Frenchman of equal distinction should accom- 
pany him, that too, would help in the same direction. . . . 

Affectionately yours 


On April 6 President Wilson replied to House's first letter 
that of course the suggested mission would be welcome, 
although he himself visualized certain dangers in the effect 
upon opinion and feared that some Americans might mis- 
understand our relations with the Allies. A great many, he 
added, would look upon the mission as an attempt, in some 
degree, to take charge of us as an assistant to Great Britain. 
But he believed, none the less, that many useful purposes 
would be served and perhaps a great deal of time in getting 
together saved. 1 Three days later he wrote House of the 
coming of a French mission, 'apparently only of compli- 
ment,' headed by Viviani and Joffre. 2 

1 WUson to House, April 6, 1917. * Wilson to House, April 9, 1917. 

Colonel House to Sir Eric Drummond 


NEW YORK, April 9, 1917 

Many thanks for your kindly message. My friend has 
always held these convictions, but until Russia joined the 
democratic nations he did not think it wise to utter them. 1 

He is greatly pleased that Mr. Balfour will come to the 
United States and of course I am delighted. It should result 
in settling many problems that confront us, and this country 
will appreciate the honor. I hope he may come immediately. 

I would suggest the mission be announced as diplomatic 
rather than military, and that the military and naval mem- 
bers be of minor rank in order that this feature may not be 
emphasized. E. M. HOUSE 

Thus on the very day that by formal vote of Congress the 
United States entered the war, it was decided to welcome the 
Allied envoys. Within a week the Balfour Mission was on 
the Atlantic, and on April 21 they landed at Halifax, whence 
they came by train through New York to Washington. A 
few days later arrived the French Mission led by Viviani and 
Joffre, to be followed shortly by the Italians and Belgians. 

Whatever the outcome of the conferences that followed, 
the despatch of these missions was of itself significant, a 
gesture symbolic of cooperative effort by which alone Ger- 
many could be defeated. 


On the morning of April 22, the Balfour Mission en route 
to Washington passed through New York. Besides the 
Foreign Secretary and Sir Eric Drummond the Mission in- 
cluded representatives of the army, navy, and treasury, 
General Bridges, Admiral de Chair, Lord Cunliffe. At nine 
in the morning Colonel House, at the suggestion of the 
British Embassy, went down to the Pennsylvania station in 

1 Referring again to Wilson's speech of April 2. 


New York to meet Balfour, who entered and left the city 
entirely by tunnel. The interview covered general topics 
only, but House's report to Wilson is interesting in that it 
indicates his fear lest in the Washington conferences the vital 
but dangerous topic of war aims should be raised. House 
himself believed that at this time it ought to be avoided. It 
was the moment, he felt, to emphasize the need of coopera- 
tive effort rather than to bring up any underlying differences 
of purpose between America and the Allied powers; these 
could be settled, he thought, only after the defeat of Ger- 
many was assured. 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, April 22, 1917 


At the suggestion of Sir William Wiseman who, I believe, 
spoke also for Sir Cecil, I met Balfour as he passed through 
this morning and had an interesting talk with him 

I told Balfour that unless you advised to the contrary I 
thought it would be well to minimize the importance of his 
visit here to the extent of a denial that it was for the purpose 
of forming some sort of agreement with the Allies. I find 
there is a feeling that this country is about to commit itself 
to a secret alliance with them. 

Such men as X and Y [extreme liberals] have been to see 
me and I could not convince them that the object of the 
visit of the British and French was not for this purpose. 

I hope you will agree with me that the best policy now is 
to avoid a discussion of peace settlements. Balfour concurs 
in this. If the Allies begin to discuss terms among them- 
selves, they will soon hate one another worse than they do 
Germany and a situation will arise similar to that in the 
Balkan States after the Turkish War. It seems to me that 
the only thing to be considered at present is how to beat 
Germany in the quickest way. 


I told Balfour I hoped England would consider that a 
peace which was best for all the nations of the world would 
be the one best for England. He accepted this with en- 

If you have a tacit understanding with him not to discuss 
peace terms with the other Allies, later this country and 
England will be able to dictate broad and generous terms 
terms that will mean permanent peace. 

Affectionately yours 


As we shall soon see, it proved impossible not to discuss 
war aims, partly, at least, because Mr. Balfour himself had 
naturally assumed that Wilson would wish to know of the 
secret treaties by which the Allied powers had guaranteed 
to each other the fulfillment of their war aims, and had come 
fully prepared to discuss them with the United States Gov- 
ernment. At this first interview, however, House touched on 
the crucial topic only so far as to verify his conviction that 
the British Foreign Secretary would stand, at least in prin- 
ciple, for the sort of settlement Wilson had demanded in his 
speech of April 2. So much appears from a passage in his 
diary supplementing his letter to the President. 

'April 22, 1917: 1 advised Balfour to be entirely frank in 
his statement to the President of the difficulties under which 
the Allies are struggling 

*I urged him not to talk peace terms, and to advise the 
President not to discuss peace terms with any of the other 
Allies. If he did, differences would be certain to arise and 
the problem now was to beat Germany and not discuss peace. 
Balfour agreed to this in full, and said he would not talk 
to the President about peace terms unless the President him- 
self initiated it. 

'Balfour asked what I thought of negotiations with 


Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria for separate peace. I thought 
well of Austria and Bulgaria * . . . 

'It pleased me to have Balfour rise with enthusiasm to 
the suggestion that Great Britain and the United States 
would stand together for a just peace a peace fair to all, 
to the small as well as the large nations of the world. Great 
Britain and America, I thought, were great enough to rise 
above all petty considerations. I thought that what was 
best for the smaller nations was best, in the long run, for 
Great Britain and the United States. This peace might 
easily be one of the greatest events in history and if we were 
to justify ourselves, we should not be small or selfish in its 

'In speaking of the war, Balfour said it was perhaps the 
biggest event in history but beyond that he could not think; 
he could not grasp the details and probably would never be 
able to do so; that coming generations might find it possible 
to see the thing as it really existed but we could not ' 

The first days of the Mission's visit to Washington were 
taken up with official receptions. Mr. Balfour displayed the 
tact and magnetism necessary to evoke unstinted enthusi- 
asm for the Allies, which was enhanced by the arrival of the 
French Mission on April 24. If there had existed any fear 
that the United States was about to be caught in the toils 
of European diplomacy, it was lost in the burst of applause 
that was given the Allied Missions. The ceremonials at the 
capital were by no means wasted time, since they did much 
to impress upon the country the fact that the war was a 
cooperative enterprise. 

Colonel House remained in New York during the first days 
of the Balfour Mission's visit; at the request of Wilson he 
came over to Washington for the week-end. On the 26th of 
April he had lunch with the President. 

1 At this time the United States was at war with neither of these states. 


'My conversation with Balfour,' said Wilson, 'was not 
satisfactory. How would it be to invite him to a family 
dinner, you being present, and go into a conference after- 

The President was anxious, apparently, to settle the 
question of war aims as between the United States and the 
Allies. There was much to be said in favor of clarifying this 
problem at the moment the United States entered the war. 
On the other hand, as House had intimated in his letter of 
April 22 to Wilson, dangers lurked in the raising of it. 

We had taken up arms against Germany, according to 
Wilson's speech of April 2, both because Germany had 
already made war upon us through the submarine and be- 
cause of our desire to achieve a lasting and just settlement. 
We were tacitly pledged to the defeat of Germany. If we did 
not come to agreement with the Allies as to the sort of peace 
to be imposed upon her, there was danger that we might be 
fighting for Allied war aims, perhaps as crystallized in the 
secret treaties. On the other hand if, after learning the 
terms of the secret treaties, we refused our approval, what 
then? We could hardly state that we would not continue to 
fight Germany, since we had our own quarrel with her. It 
would be futile to announce that because of our disapproval 
of the purposes of the Allies we would make war by ourselves. 
If we stated that we would fight with the Allies but reserved 
the right later to dispute the application of the secret 
treaties, the only effect would be to cause irritation and to 
injure the chances of effective cooperative action against the 

Colonel House knew of the secret treaties. He had told 
the President of the Treaty of London before Italy entered 
the war, and Grey had told him of the demands of Rumania, 
so that he must have guessed the terms upon which she 
entered the war. 1 He was shortly to learn more about them. 

1 See Intimate Papers of Colonel House, i, 462. 


But he hoped that the President would not at this time make 
an issue of them, and he feared the results of an American 
demand that the Allies renounce them. The time might 
come when the United States would be in a position to en- 
force such a demand as a necessary preliminary to a stable 
peace. But America, coming late into the war and as yet 
having made no material contribution toward victory, had 
not attained that position. 

Later President Wilson was severely criticized for having 
failed to settle the whole question of war aims at the moment 
when we entered the war. If the criticism is just, evidently 
Colonel House must share the responsibility. As will appear, 
neither the President nor House felt that it was possible to 
endanger unity with the Allies by raising a protest against 
the secret treaties. 

'April 26, 1917: [Conference with President Wilson.] I 
argued against discussing peace terms with the Allies, just 
as I did in my first conversation with Mr. Balfour and in my 
letter to the President. The President thought it would be 
a pity to have Balfour go home without a discussion of the 
subject. My thought was that there was no harm in dis- 
cussing it between themselves if it was distinctly understood 
and could be said, that there was no official discussion of the 
subject, and if neither Government would discuss peace 
terms with any of the other Allies. 1 It was agreed that this 
should be done.' 

The President commissioned Colonel House to present to 
Mr. Balfour his invitation to dinner, thus preserving the 
desired atmosphere of informality; later it was decided that 
House should first discuss with the Foreign Secretary the 
general problem of war aims and ask him about the secret 
treaties, before the dinner with the President. 

1 It is not clear how the British, who had treaties with the other Allies, 
could be expected not to discuss them if occasion arose. 


In view of the later, controversy regarding American 
knowledge of the secret treaties, Colonel House's record of 
the following conversation with Balfour is of the utmost 
historical importance. It is unsatisfactory in a certain 
sense, for he dictated his notes on this conversation in a haste 
that could not be avoided and was obviously dealing in 
generalities. Unless this fact is kept in mind, the notes give 
an impression of superficiality. It should also be remembered 
that this discussion and those that followed were not directed 
to the merits of the secret treaties themselves, but rather to 
their bearing on American policy and the relations between 
America and the Allies. 

'April 28, 1917: My most important conference to-day 
was with Mr. Balfour. ... No one else was present and we 
talked for an hour and a half without interruption. And 
this reminds me that Sir Eric asked yesterday whether it 
would be convenient for Balfour to continue to be a guest of 
the Government rather than to go to the British Embassy 
as planned. 1 . . . We asked Drummond, and Balfour as well, 
to open their minds freely, as to one another, so that things 
might go without friction. They promised to do so and this 
is an evidence of it. 

'Balfour wished to know where we should begin our dis- 
cussion, whether we should first take up peace terms to be 
imposed in the event of a decisive defeat of Germany, or 
whether to take it up on a basis of a stalemate of partial 

1 Through the courtesy of Mr. Breckinridge Long, Third Assistant 
Secretary of State, Mr. Balfour had been given the use of his house during 
the Mission's stay in Washington. ' In some ways/ Colonel House wrote, 
'Breckinridge Long occupied a position of his own in the Wilson Ad- 
ministration. A man of wealth, of culture and of an old and distinguished 
family, he filled an enviable niche. He had charm, discretion and a sense 
of political values that made him an important factor in the State De- 
partment. He looked beyond his departmental duties, and worked assid- 
uously to strengthen the President's position. He sought to clarify and 
popularize the President's policies.' 


defeat. I thought we had better discuss the first proposition. 

' He had a large map of Europe and of Asia Minor and we 
began this most important and interesting discussion, the 
understanding being that he and I would go through with it 
first, letting me convey our conclusions to the President 
before the three of us had our conference on Monday. 1 

'He took it for granted that Alsace and Lorraine would 
go to France, and that France, Belgium, and Serbia would 
be restored. 

'He first discussed Poland and outlined what its bounda- 
ries should be. Of course, the stumbling block was the outlet 

to the sea. There can be no other excepting Danzig 

This would leave an Alsace and Lorraine to rankle and fester 
for future trouble. 2 Balfour thought it might be made a free 
port, and in that way satisfy Poland. At the moment, I do 
not look upon this with favor, particularly since the Ger- 
mans and Poles would be antagonistic and ready upon the 
slightest provocation to find grievances against one another. 
However, I warmly advocated a restored and rejuvenated 
Poland, a Poland big enough and powerful enough to serve 
as a buffer state between Germany and Russia. 

'Serbia came next, and it was agreed that Austria must 
return Bosnia and Herzegovinia, but that Serbia on her part 
should give to Bulgaria that part of Macedonia which the 
first Balkan agreement gave her. 

'Rumania, we thought, should have a small part of Russia 
which her people inhabited and also a part of Hungary for 
the same reason. 8 

1 House later wrote that this map had the secret treaty lines traced on 
it and that Balfour left it with the Colonel. It is not to be found among 
the House Papers, and was doubtless handed over to The Inquiry and 
later sent to the State Department. 

1 German protests against this corridor, which was established by the 
peace treaties, are clear evidence of the extent to which it constituted a 
factor of unrest. 

1 References evidently to Bessarabia and Transylvania and the Banat. 
They may have looked small upon Balfour's map but the territories 


'We thought Austria should be composed of three states, 
such as Bohemia, Hungary, and Austria proper. 

'We came to no conclusion as to Trieste. I did not con- 
sider it best or desirable to shut Austria from the Adriatic. 
Balfour argued that Italy claimed she should have pro- 
tection for her east coast by having Dalmatia. She has no 
seaport from Venice to Brindisi, and she claims she must 
have the coast opposite in order to protect herself.' 

The mention of the aspirations of Italy gave to House the 
opening for which he had been waiting and permitted him to 
put the pertinent question as to the secret obligations which 
the Allies had assumed towards each other for the fulfilment 
of their war aims. 

'This led me to ask/ House continued, 'what treaties were 
out between the Allies as to the division of spoils after the 
war. He said they had treaties with one another, and that 
when Italy came in they made one with her in which they 
had promised pretty much what she demanded. 

'Balfour spoke with regret at the spectacle of great 
nations sitting down and dividing the spoils of war or, as he 
termed it, "dividing up the bearskin before the bear was 
killed." I asked him if he did not think it proper for the 
Allies to give copies of these treaties to the President for his 
confidential information. He thought such a request entirely 
reasonable and said he would have copies made for that 
purpose. He was not certain they had brought them over, 
but if not, he would send for them. 

' I asked if he did not consider it wise for us to keep clear of 
any promises so that at the peace conference we could exert 
an influence against greed and an improper distribution of 

promised Rumania by the secret treaty of Bucharest, signed August 17, 
1916, would almost double the area of Rumania. Bessarabia, belonging 
to Russia, was not included in the territories then promised Rumania. 


territory. I said to him what I once said to Grey, that if we 
are to justify our being in the war, we should free ourselves 
entirely from petty, selfish thoughts and look at the thing 
broadly and from a world viewpoint. Balfour agreed to this 
with enthusiasm. 

* Constantinople was our next point. We agreed that it 
should be internationalized. 1 Crossing the Bosphorus we 
came to Anatolia. 2 It is here that the secret treaties between 
the Allies come in most prominently. They have agreed to 
give Russia a sphere of influence in Armenia and the north- 
ern part. The British take in Mesopotamia [and the region] 
which is contiguous to Egypt. France and Italy each have 
their spheres embracing the balance of Anatolia up to the 
Straits. 3 

'It is all bad and I told Balfour so. They are making it a 
breeding place for future war. I asked what the spheres 
of influence included. Balfour was hazy concerning this; 
whether it meant permanent occupation, or whether it 
meant that each nation had the exclusive right to develop 
the resources within their own sphere, he was not altogether 

* We did not touch upon the German Colonies, neither did 
we touch upon Japan, China, or the Eastern question gener- 
ally. 4 

* We went back to Poland. His objection to a Polish state, 
cutting off Russia from Germany, was whether it would not 

1 This does not tally with the promises made by Great Britain and 
France to Russia in March, 1915, according to which Constantinople 
should belong to Russia but should be a free port for goods not entering 
Russia. House must have misunderstood Balfour, perhaps interpreting 
'free port* as meaning 'free city.' 

2 Meaning evidently Turkey in Asia. 

8 Italy's demands were met in a general fashion in the Treaty of Lon- 
don; they were agreed to more definitely at this very time, April 19, 1917, 
at St. Jean de Maurienne. 

4 Just before the United States entered the war France, Great Britain, 
Italy, and Russia agreed to approve Japan's claims to German rights in 
Shantung and the German islands north of the equator. 


hurt France more than Germany, for the reason it would 
prevent Russia from coming to France's aid in the event of 
an attack by Germany. I thought we had to take into 
consideration the Russia of fifty years from now rather than 
the Russia of to-day. While we might hope it would continue 
democratic and cease to be aggressive, yet if the contrary 
happened, Russia would be the menace to Europe and not 
Germany. I asked him not to look upon Germany as a 
permanent enemy. If we did this, it would confuse our 
reasoning and mistakes would likely be made. Balfour, 
however, was more impressed with the German menace than 
he was by the possible danger from Russia. 9 


House did not urge Balfour to give him complete details 
of the secret treaties, nor, being a private citizen, would he 
wish to ask for copies of the texts. It seems clear that he 
realized always the danger of pressing the discussion to a 
point which might emphasize the differences between the 
American and the Allied war aims. The following evening 
the Colonel dined with President Wilson and, if we may 
depend upon his diary notes, nothing was said of the matter 
nor of the approaching conference which Wilson was to have 
with Balfour. The President seemed anxious to escape from 
current politics. 

"April 29, 1917: The President, Mrs. Wilson, Miss Bones 
and I had dinner alone. After dinner we went to the up- 
stairs sitting room and talked upon general subjects for 
awhile. The President read several chapters from Oliver's 
"Ordeal by Battle." He was interested in what I had to 
tell him of Oliver, and we discussed the different points 
Oliver made in the chapters read. . . . 

*The President declared his intention of writing some 
things whicYi were on his mind, aiter he retired from office. 


... He said he had no notion of writing about his adminis- 
tration, but expressed a desire to write one book which he 
has long had in mind and which he thought might have an 
influence for good. 

'He said, " I write with difficulty and it takes everything 
out of me.' 5 This estimate of himself in that field of his 
endeavors would surprise the general public, since he is 
considered such a fluent writer. I asked how long it took him 
to write his April 2nd Address to Congress. He said ten 
hours. I offered the opinion that his January 22nd speech 
to the Senate was a much abler document because it had 
more original thought. His April 2nd speech pleased, I 
thought, because it reflected the public mind, both here and 
in the Allied countries. 

'He talked of the proposed book and its contents. I 
thought if he would bring out clearly the necessity for a 
more responsive form of government, and the necessity for 
having Cabinet members sit in the House of Representatives, 
it would be worth while. He agreed that if the Cabinet 
officers sat in the House, the outcome would be that the 
President would have to take his material for the Cabinet 
from Congress. This, in the end, would give the Cabinet 
more power, and would have the further effect of bringing 
into Congress the best talent in the country. It would 
eventuate in something like the British system.' 

On the following evening, April 30, the intimate confer- 
ence between Wilson and Balfour took place in the White 
House, preceded by the family dinner which the President 
insisted upon and which proved conducive to the sort of in- 
formal discussion of war aims that was desired. 

'Besides the President, Mr. Balfour and myself/ wrote 
House, 'there was no one present at dinner excepting Mrs. 
Wilson and Miss Bones. The President did most of the 


talking The conversation was along general lines, 

mostly educational, historical and architectural. The Presi- 
dent told several stories of Lincoln, and Balfour listened 
with interest. He said Lincoln was not ready for the Presi- 
dency when it came to him; that up to that time he was not 
sufficiently educated and had not had adequate public 
experience. He spoke of the difficulty Lincoln had in 
acquiring an education and of his manner of obtaining it. 
They both thought it little less than marvellous, with his 
antecedents and limited opportunities, that he should de- 
velop a distinct literary flavor 

'In talking of education, the President expressed himself 
as not being in agreement with the general modern trend 
against the Classics. He thought the world had gained as 
much by the untruths of history as by the truths. He did 
not believe the human mind should be held down to facts 
and material matters. He considered that the trouble with 
Germany to-day. German thought expressed itself in terms 
of machinery and gases. The reading of the romance lan- 
guages and of the higher flights of fancy in literature led one 
into spiritual realms which, to say the least, was as advanta- 
geous to the world as its material progress. . . . 

'We took our coffee in the oval sitting room and when it 
was finished we went to the President's study and began a 
conference, the importance of which cannot be overesti- 
mated. The President continued to do most of the talking. 
It was evident to me that he was keyed up for this con- 
ference, as he had been resting most of the afternoon, not 
taking his usual exercise. . . . 

'The ground we covered was exactly the same as Balfour 
and I had covered in our conference Saturday. I tried to 
steer the conversation so as to embrace what Balfour had 
said to me and what the President and I had agreed upon in 
former conferences. 

'When we touched upon the internationalization of 


Constantinople I suggested that it might lead to trouble. 
It was with some difficulty that I made them understand 
that I thoroughly agreed with the general idea, but desired 
to point out that it would inevitably lead to an attempt to 
internationalize the Straits between Sweden and Norway 
and Continental Europe, and the Suez and Panama Canals. 
They did not agree with me that the two questions had 
much in common. . . . 

'The discussion ran from shortly before eight o'clock until 
half past ten, when the President was due at a reception 
given by the Secretary of State to the members of Congress 
to meet the British and French Missions. 

'I asked Balfour again about the Allies' treaties with each 
other and the desirability of his giving copies to the Presi- 
dent. He again agreed to do so. 

'When the conference broke up I walked downstairs with 
Mr. Balfour and asked if he felt that his mind and that of the 
President had touched at all points. He was quite enthusi- 
astic and said he had never had a more interesting interview. 
He spoke of the President as having a wonderful combina- 
tion of human philosophy and political sagacity. 

4 The President and Mr. Balfour went to the reception 
together and I went to my room to prepare for the train. 
Before I left, the President had returned and we had a few 
minutes further conversation. He was delighted at Balfour's 
comments, and seemed happy over the result of the evening's 

Colonel House's record of this conversation is interesting 
not merely because it indicates clearly that the existence of 
the secret treaties was discussed, but also because the Presi- 
dent evidently did not think it worth while to make an issue 
of the topic. The discussion, like that of House with Balfour 
two days before, was not based upon the treaties, but rather 
upon the most satisfactory settlement that could be arranged 


to ensure peace. House had already told Balfour that he 
regarded Allied plans as expressed in the treaties as "bad/ 
and Wilson, who did much of the talking, must have in- 
dicated his own preferences. 

Some months later, at the time of the drafting of the 
Fourteen Points, President Wilson expressed concern over 
the promises made in the secret treaties, particularly in the 
Treaty of London. Aware of his misgivings, Sir William 
Wiseman informed Mr. Balfour, who wrote at some length 
to the President regarding Allied obligations. 

Mr. A. J. Balfour to President Wilson 

LONDON, January 30, 1918 

I gather from a message sent by Wiseman that you would 
like to know my thoughts on the Italian territorial claims 
under the treaty of London concluded in 1915. 

That treaty (arranged of course long before I was at the 
Foreign Office) bears on the face of it evident proof of the 
anxiety of the Allies to get Italy into the war, and of the use 
to which that anxiety was put by the Italian negotiators. 
But a treaty is a treaty; and we I mean England and 
France (of Russia I say nothing) are bound to uphold 
it in letter and in spirit. The objections to it indeed are 
obvious enough: It assigns to Italy territories on the Adri- 
atic which are not Italian but Slav; and the arrangement 
is justified not on grounds of nationality but on grounds 
of strategy. 

Now I do not suggest that we should rule out such argu- 
ments with a pedantic consistency. Strong frontiers make 
for peace; and though great crimes against the principle of 
nationality have been committed in the name of 'strategic 
necessity,' still if a particular boundary adds to the stability 
of international relations, and if the populations concerned 
be numerically insignificant, I would not reject it in defer- 


ence to some a priori principle. Each case must be con- 
sidered on its merits. 

Personally, however, I am in doubt whether Italy would 
really be strengthened by the acquisition of all her Adriatic 
claims; and in any case it does not seem probable that she 
will endeavour to prolong the war in order to obtain them. 
Of the three west-European belligerents she is certainly the 
most war-weary; and if she could secure peace and 'Italia 

Irredenta 9 she would, I believe, not be ill satisfied 

Yours very sincerely 


P.S. I shall always be delighted to answer with complete 
frankness any question you care to put to me. But this I 
think you know already. 

It it thus quite certain that the President was informed of 
the character of the secret treaties and was entirely aware 
of the difference between his own peace programme and that 
of the Allies. At the time of the Balfour Mission he may 
have expected that in the end American influence at the 
Peace Conference would be sufficient to eliminate the 
treaties as practical factors in the settlement. Writing to 
Colonel House, a few weeks later, President Wilson in- 
timated strongly that American economic power would be 
such that the Allies must perforce yield to American pressure 
and accept the American peace programme: England and 
France, he wrote, have not the same views with regard to 
peace that we have by any means. When the war is over we 
can force them to our way of thinking. 1 

If President Wilson regarded the secret treaties as of small 
ultimate consequence, it is not surprising that at the moment 
when we entered the war he refused to make an issue of 
them. 2 

1 Wilson to House, July 21, 1917. f See appendix to this chapter. 



In the mean time Colonel House found opportunity, be- 
fore his return to New York, to come into contact with 
most of the members of the missions, French as well as 

'April 29, 1917: At one o'clock, Frank Polk, Miss Bones, 
Miss Brennan and I drove to the Navy Yard to board the 
Mayflower, which Secretary Daniels had commissioned to 
take the French and British Missions to Mount Vernon. 
In addition to the personnel of the Missions the members 
of the Cabinet were present. I was busy from the time 
I boarded the ship until I returned, with discussions with 
different people. 

'The most interesting person aboard was Marshal 

'April 30, 1917: This has been a day filled with important 
work. . . . State Department officials, Cabinet members, 
etc., etc. Conversations with the French and British Mis- 
sions. . . . 

'I lunched at the French Embassy. The other guests 
besides the Ambassador and Madame Jusserand ^vere, 
Marshal Joffre, Viviani, Admiral Chochresprat, Henry 
White, Myron T. Herrick, Marquis de Chambrun, Frank 
Polk. Before lunch there was a very pretty ceremony. The 
household servants and some neighborhood children brought 
flowers to Joffre and presented him with a small souvenir. 
He thanked them in a few sentences. 

'My next engagement was with Sir Eric Drummond, 
which we filled by a drive. Since our last talk he had thought 
of Viscount Grey of Fallodon as a special envoy to the 
United States to remain indefinitely. This I considered an 
admirable suggestion. He wondered whether Grey would 
accept It would mean that they would have a repre- 
sentative of the British Government here with whom I 


believed the President would talk as frankly as to a member 
of our own Government. . . . 

'We arranged to keep in constant communication and I 
urged him to let us know of any difficulties which might 
arise, or of any annoyance however petty which might come 
up and would not be known unless he dealt frankly with us. 

* My next engagement was with 6mile Hovelaque. 1 This 
also was filled by a drive with him through Rock Creek 
Park. . . . 

'Hovelaque told of how serious conditions were in France 
and how necessary it was to send our troops at once. The 
Allies seem to be pretty much at the end of their tether, and 
it is to be hoped Germany is in an even more depleted condi- 

'I went to Henry White's residence, where the French 
Mission is quartered, and was shown into the Marshal's 
room; where we had our conference. Joffre began by saying 
that he was anxious to explain the condition of France and 
how necessary it was for American soldiers to be sent over 
at once. He thought he could put them in condition to go to 
the front within five weeks after they arrived, provided they 
knew the rudiments of military tactics. He merely wanted 
them to be disciplined and to know the manual of arms. 

'To me Joffre looks more of the German than the French 
type. He must have been quite blonde when young. His hair 
is now so streaked with gray that it is difficult to know its 
original color. His eyes are peculiar and, to me, the most 
striking feature he has. He seems to have a well ordered 
mind, and appears to be the type of General well suited to 
the French in the time of stress which they were under when 
he was in general command. I constantly compared him, in 
my own mind, to General Grant. I told him this, and he 
seemed not displeased at the comparison 

'The French have used bad judgment in sending envoys 

1 Of the French Mission. 


here who cannot speak English, for it makes it impossible for 
us to have as complete an understanding with them as with 
the English. One hesitates to trust entirely an interpreter. 
I can see more and more clearly the danger of friction be- 
tween the Allies. Distrust lies close beneath the surface, and 
a little difference between them would bring it from under 
cover. This danger is not being well guarded. The Japa- 
nese, Russians, and Italians are being left out of English, 
French, and American calculations. As far as one can see, 
they do not appear at any of the functions in Washington 
except the larger ones, and there is a lack of Russian, Japa- 
nese, and Italian flags which might easily hurt sensibilities. 
The British and ourselves are not unlike the Germans in 
that our manner indicates that other nations do not much 

On the evening of April 30 Colonel House returned to 
New York, but at Wilson's suggestion arrangements were 
made for him to continue conversations with members of 
the Allied Missions. What the President chiefly desired was 
an understanding regarding the tone of public statements 
that might be issued with the purpose of affecting opinion 
in Germany. It was also important to discuss the general 
sense of any replies that might be made to future peace 
proposals. He did not intend to bind himself to approve 
Allied policies, but he did wish to know what was in the 
minds of the British and French. He was certainly in com- 
plete agreement with Allied determination to achieve the 
' defeat of Germany,' but he wanted to know exactly what 
was meant by the phrase. What did ' security against Ger- 
man aggression' connote? Must the war be carried to the 
point of breaking up the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires? 
He was anxious not to permit belligerent emotion to cloud 
common sense and he desired calmly to balance the relative 
advantages of minimum and maximum war aims in the light 


of the price that must be paid in human lives and material 

On all these matters agreement between the President and 
House was so complete that he knew that his own point of 
view would be clearly explained by Colonel House to Mr. 
Balfour, and the conference would have the advantage of 
being entirely unofficial 

'May 8, 1917: The usual telephone calls,' wrote House, 
'have come from Washington and elsewhere. Wiseman had 
word from Washington that Balfour will lunch with us on 
Sunday. I have also arranged to dine with the British 
Ambassador Saturday and have Sir Eric Drummond for tea 
Sunday. This will give satisfactory conferences with all of 
them. . . . 

'There is not much satisfaction talking with the French, 
for fhe reason they are not clothed with any authority, and 
are merely here to tell of France's needs and to express her 
appreciation of our entrance into the war. With Balfour it is 
different. He is Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of our 
most powerful ally and it may be that he will figure largely 
at the peace conference 

' May 13, 1917 : The main business of the day was my con- 
ference with Balfour. He came for lunch and remained until 
four o'clock, giving us ample time to go over the inter- 
national situation. At lunch we discussed the impossibility 
of distinguished visitors getting the true American feeling 
or spirit because of the kind of people they necessarily met 
and the limited area of the country they visited. I told of 
the South and the West and of their sturdy and silent 
patriotism, and how they would quietly make ready for the 
struggle upon which we have embarked 

'There was no one at the table excepting Balfour and my- 
self. After lunch we adjourned to my study. We decided we 
ought to have some understanding as to each other's minds 


regarding the inauguration of peace measures. Germany at 
any time might make a tentative offer. . . .' 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, May 13, 1917 


Mr. Balf our took lunch with me to-day and we had a very 
interesting talk. 

I suggested that it would be well to use his influence to- 
wards limiting the members of the peace conference to a 
minimum and I expressed the hope that you would consent 
to go from here as our only representative. He concurred in 
the wisdom of having a body small enough for it not to be 

I asked him what would be his inclination in the event 
Germany made a tentative offer of peace on the basis of the 
status quo ante. He thought it would largely depend upon 
the condition of the U-boat warfare and also upon the condi- 
tion of Russia, France, and Italy. 

It was my opinion that we ought not to let our desires run 
away with our judgment in the matter of making peace. For 
instance, if Turkey and Austria were willing to break away 
from Germany, or were willing to force Germany to make 
peace, I thought certain concessions should be made to them 
other than what we would have in mind in the event we had 
our complete will. He agreed to this. 

He also agreed to the proposal that there should be no 
insistence that the makers of the war should be punished 
before a settlement had been even tentatively discussed. 

He asked me to express to you his very great appreciation 
of your coming to Congress to hear him speak. He under- 
stands what an unprecedented compliment it was and is 
deeply moved. . . . 

He is very happy over his visit and considers it a great 
success from every viewpoint. 

(now Earl of Balfour) 


Some time ago I had a letter from Page proposing that we 
start a propaganda in England to improve the feeling to- 
wards us. I spoke to Balfour about this and suggested that 
it would be better if this were done by the English them- 
selves. He agreed to take it up with his government and see 
that it was properly done. 1 

Affectionately yours 


The British were evidently conscious that the question of 
sincere German peace offers was for the moment quite out- 
side the circle of practical possibilities. They responded 
more quickly to the suggestion that a concerted and con- 
tinual drive should be made on German morale. House 
believed that to break the belligerent spirit behind the lines 
was as important as to defeat the armies; this result could 
be attained, he felt, by constant repetition of the note which 
Wilson struck in his war speech of April 2 : that the war was 
waged by the Entente and America for the liberation of 
all peoples, Germans included, and that the Allies had no 
quarrel with the German people, no desire to dismember 
Germany; with the German military autocracy, however, 
the Allies would never deal. On May 20 House discussed 
this policy with Sir Eric Drummond, who promised to draft 
a memorandum embodying these principles so far as they 
met the views of the Foreign Office. 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, May 20, 1917 

Sir Eric Drummond has been here for two days. We have 
gone over the situation of the Central Powers and he has 
given me the views of his Foreign Office on many points 

1 This letter was answered on the telephone by the President, who ap- 
proved its general tenor. 


I convinced Drummond that the most effective thing we 
could do at present was to aid the German liberals in their 
fight against the present German Government. 

The idea is for you to say, at a proper time and occasion, 
that the Allies are ready at any moment to treat with the 
German people, but they are not ready to treat with a mili- 
tary autocracy an autocracy which they feel is responsible 
for the troubles that now beset the world. It is not fair to 
the peoples of Russia, of Great Britain, of France, of Italy, 
and of the United States to be asked to treat with a military 
caste that is in no way representative of the German people 

Both Drummond and I think that care should be used not 
to include the Kaiser. He has a very strong personal follow- 
ing in Germany, and if he is shorn of his power ... he could 
be rendered harmless. In not designating the Kaiser, the 
hands of the liberals will be strengthened because there is an 
element in Germany that would like to see a democratic 
Germany under a limited monarchy. The situation in 
Russia will accentuate the feeling that it is better not to 
make a too violent change from an autocracy to a repub- 
lic * 

Ills* ... 

Affectionately yours 


The draft statement of policy agreed upon by Sir Eric and 
Colonel House, which, according to a note of Colonel House 
of May 23, was approved by Mr. Balfour, began by declaring 
that the United States and the Allies were determined to 
carry on the struggle until the aims set out by President 
Wilson were secured. America would spare neither treasure 
nor life, no matter how long the war continued. In 1918 
there would be a million and a half American soldiers on the 

1 This letter also was answered by the President on the telephone in a 
tone of general approval. 


Western Front. 1 But, although the Allies would never aban- 
don the 'cause of democracy and civilization,' and Germany 
could never hope for a favorable decision by force of arms, 
the Allies were ready to declare, as before, that they had no 
quarrel with the German people, no desire to dismember 

The points outlined in the House-Drummond memoran- 
dum deserve careful appraisal, since they formed the basis 
for the public statements of President Wilson during the 
remainder of the war: Peace to the German people, endless 
war on German militarism. Unquestionably the attempt to 
differentiate between the Germans and their Government, 
unpopular as it was and fruitless as it seemed at the time, 
served finally to weaken German morale, the collapse of 
which, according to Ludendorff , explains the sudden charac- 
ter of the final surrender. The possibilities of this policy were 
perceived by Lord Northcliffe, who in the following spring 
organized at Crewe House the most effective scheme of 
propaganda known to modern history. Ceaselessly he 
poured into Germany the idea that unless the people re- 
pudiated the old regime, their own ruin would be linked 
with that of the Hohenzollerns. It acted as a subtle cor- 
rosive which ultimately ate away the German 'will to 

The Balfour Mission slipped quietly out of New York, 
across the Canadian border, and back to England. The 
French and the Italians shortly followed. It yet remained 
to be seen whether practical working agencies could be 
evolved capable of directing the strength of America into the 
channels of assistance most necessary to the Allies. The 

1 It is important to note that as early as May, 1917, as here indicated, 
President Wilson determined to send over so large an American expedi- 
tionary force. 


Missions represented the first attempt to secure coordina- 
tion between the United States and the Allies, and it was not 
unnatural that they did not succeed immediately in estab- 
lishing effective cooperation; the task was one which would 
require long months of experiment. 

The Missions, none the less, did go far to create the 
cordial atmosphere essential to whole-hearted cooperation. 
Most important of all, perhaps, they made possible a frank 
interchange of personal opinion which facilitated the settle- 
ment of many delicate questions such as are bound to disturb 
the official relations of even the most friendly governments. 
The Balfour Mission, in particular, established a close 
liaison between the British and the Americans that con- 
tinued throughout the war. 

Sir Eric Drummond to Colonel House 

LONDON, July 10, 1917 


I am afraid that we have been overwhelming you with 
numerous telegrams on various subjects since we got back, 
but you were so kind to us on the Mission and definitely 
asked me to refer to you if any difficulties arose, that we 
have been emboldened to take what is perhaps an undue 
advantage of your kindness. 

The visit to the United States really has done Mr. Balfour 
good physically, and he is much less tired than when he 
started from here. I need not tell you how happy he was in 
your country nor how much he appreciated the pleasure of 
seeing you again. 

I would like further to say that he formed a very great 

personal regard and admiration for the President You 

know how well the two men got on together and I think I 
may say how mutual their respect for each other was 

I trust that you are well and that your many cares are 
not placing too great a strain upon you. I do not like to 


contemplate what the position might be if we were deprived, 
even for a short time, of your counsel and assistance. 
Yours very sincerely 



The problem of the extent to which officials of the United States knew 
of the existence and the content of the secret treaties has always been 
one of a controversial nature. President Wilson in his testimony before 
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 19, 1919, stated that 
he had no knowledge of the secret treaties as a whole before he reached 
Paris: 'The whole series of understandings were disclosed to me for the 
first time then. 1 He further stated that he was not informed of the 
Treaty of London. Senator Johnson recited the list of various treaties, 
including the Treaty of London, the agreement with Rumania, the vari- 
ous agreements with reference to Asia Minor, and asked: 'Did you have 
any knowledge prior to the conference?' To which the President replied: 
'No, sir, I can confidently answer that "No" in regard to myself.' 

It is difficult to reconcile this statement with available evidence. On 
March 4, 1918, Mr. Balfour, in reply to a question in the House of Com- 
mons as to whether copies of the secret treaties had been sent to the 
President, replied ' that President Wilson is kept fully informed by the 
Allies.' On May 16, 1918, Mr. Balfour stated in the House of Commons: 
' I have no secrets from President Wilson. Every thought that I have in 
the way of diplomacy connected with the war is absolutely open to Presi- 
dent Wilson.' Furthermore, in a private letter to Colonel House, written 
July 17, 1922, permission to publish which is now authorized, he states in 
reference to a discussion of the secret treaties by Mr. R. S. Baker: 'He 
[Mr. Baker] was certainly wrong in his statement that Mr. Wilson was 
kept in ignorance by me of the secret treaties, an error which I feel the 
more acutely, because it is a calumny which, if I remember rightly, I 
have already publicly contradicted.' The clearest evidence of Mr. Bal- 
four's frankness with President Wilson is to be found in his letter of 
January 30, 1918, above quoted; this shows that, upon receiving informa- 
tion from Sir William Wiseman to the effect that President Wilson was 
disturbed by the content of the Treaty of London, Mr. Balfour immedi- 
ately wrote him regarding it. 

The papers of Colonel House confirm this evidence. They indicate that 
Mr. Balfour and Colonel House discussed the secret treaties, and that in 
the conference with President Wilson which followed 'exactly the same 
ground was covered.' The question of the Far East was not raised and 
there is nothing to show that either Colonel House or the President knew 
anything of the understanding between the Allies and Japan regarding 
Shantung. Secretary Lansing stated before the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee that he learned in 1917 of the projected division of the 
German Islands in the Pacific, but nothing about Shantung. 


Although it seems clear that President Wilson knew of the Treaty of 
London in 1917,'it is possible that, after reaching Paris two years later 
and following the turmoil of the Conference, he may have confused the 
date of his hearing of this Treaty with the date of hearing of the under- 
standing with Japan regarding Shantung. All these agreements were 
loosely lumped together under the caption 'Secret Treaties.' At no time 
did the President take them very seriously, since the peace settlement 
was determined by the active forces at Paris and not by the secret 
treaties, which in every case were seriously modified. It is possible that 
Mr. Wilson had been early advised of the existence of the agreement with 
Japan, but forgot the fact, as it was crowded out of his mind by the 
influx of an astounding amount of detail, and thus failed to recollect the 
date when several years later he was suddenly questioned on the subject 
by the Foreign Relations Committee. Such confusion of mind, in the 
circumstances, may reasonably account for his statement that he knew 
nothing of the Treaty of London before he reached Paris. 2 The following 
is the conclusion of Colonel House. 8 

4 1 disagree with the critics of President Wilson, both regarding his 
testimony before the Senate Committee as to when he first had know- 
ledge of the secret treaties, and in the matter of his apparent lack of 
appreciation of their importance. 

'It is doubtful whether he knew of the treaty with Japan until he 
reached Paris. I cannot recall having such knowledge myself and my 
papers do not indicate that either of us knew. The President may have 
had that treaty in mind when questioned by the Senate Committee, or it 
may be that he forgot the date when the information first reached him. 
There was nothing to be gained by a misstatement, and it is clear to me 
that he spoke from conviction. 

'There was no man living at that time who had more varied informa- 
tion and misinformation brought to him than President Wilson. How 
could he on the spur of the moment know when he first heard of this or 

'There are those who believe the President laid too little stress upon 
the treaties and that he should have had some understanding with the 
Allies regarding them before he committed the United States to war. 
This was not practicable. We had our own quarrel with Germany, and 
if he had waited until he could have gotten a satisfactory understanding 
regarding the secret treaties the war would have been over before we 
entered the lists. England and France might have come to a quick 
decision, but, of necessity, they would have had first to reach an agree- 
ment with Japan, Italy, and Russia. Could any satisfactory agreement 
have been reached with them? I doubt it. Meanwhile, Germany would 

1 In 1918 the Treaty of London, published by the Bolshevists and re- 
printed by the Manchester Guardian, was public property. 

1 His testimony was given barely a month before his complete physical 
and nervous collapse. 

In a letter of April 9, 1928 to C. S. 


have sunk our ships and we should have been standing idly by, waiting 
for a termination of negotiations regarding the secret treaties. 

* As it was, the United States entered the war promptly and efficiently, 
but as an associate Power, uncommitted to any agreements made be- 
tween the Allies. Our hands were untied and we were free to do as we 
would at the peace table. If any criticism is to be made, should it not be 
of what we failed to do there, and not what we failed to do before we 
entered the war?' 


These people are getting deeply into the war and are most resolute. 
Lord Northdiffe to Lord Rothermere, from New York, September 7, 1917 


THE difficulties of waging war successfully by means of a 
coalition may be studied in any history. It is impossible to 
secure absolute unity of political or military action, and even 
imperfect coordination of a sort between the governments 
and armies of allied powers demands a variety of mutual 
sacrifices which few are willing to make except in the face 
of compelling peril. These difficulties were experienced by 
the European allies in their struggle against the Central 
Powers and never entirely overcome. It was all the more 
difficult to achieve coordinated action with the United 
States, which refused to accept the responsibilities of a 
treaty of alliance and insisted upon keeping its freedom of 
decision unrestricted. 

The Balfour and Viviani Missions did not establish, did 
not indeed attempt to establish, machinery of coordination. 
They created, however, an atmosphere of mutual under- 
standing which proved of political importance; this was espe- 
cially true in the case of Anglo-American relations. President 
Wilson was acutely aware of the need of frank interchange of 
opinion and he was particularly pleased by the directness 
of Mr. Balfour's attitude during his conferences with the 
President and House. It was natural that he should ask 
Colonel House to develop his personal relations with the 
British, so that there might be informal means of exchanging 
facts and opinions with a frankness that would not always 
be possible between official departments of even the most 


friendly nations. Sir William Wiseman thus describes the 
arrangements that were necessary. 

* Colonel House foresaw the serious delays which would 
occur if communication was held through the ordinary diplo- 
matic channels, and realized the appalling difficulty of 
President Wilson's cooperating usefully with the Allies at a 
distance of more than three thousand miles, especially as it 
was impossible to have any one in Europe who could speak 
authoritatively for the American Government without refer- 
ence back to Washington. Balfour also dreaded the delays 
which must inevitably occur. In discussing this vital ques- 
tion, Colonel House arranged, with the President's approval, 
that Balfour should cable in a special British Government 
code direct to me in New York, and that I should make it 
my chief duty to attend to these cables and bring them im- 
mediately to Colonel House, who could telephone them over 
a private wire to the State Department or to President 
Wilson. In this way Balfour, speaking for the British Gov- 
ernment, could get an answer from President Wilson, if nec- 
essary, within a few hours. This would have been utterly im- 
possible had the communications gone through ordinary 
diplomatic channels/ 

An obvious example of the frankness with which opinions 
could be exchanged is to be found in a discussion which 
Colonel House began during the visit of the Balfour Mission 
and continued after its return to Great Britain. It concerned 
no less delicate a topic than the relative strength of the 
British and American navies. Historically it is chiefly of 
interest not because it affected the course of the war, but 
rather in the light of subsequent negotiations which became 
of the first importance after the Armistice and the close of 
the Wilson Administration. 

The provisions of the Navy Bill passed by Congress in 


1916 would, when carried into effect, make the United States 
Navy second only to that of Great Britain; indeed, in the 
opinion of various experts the reinforced American Navy 
would approximately equal that of the British in total 
strength. 1 The immediate value of this increase in the 
American naval forces, however, was lessened by the empha- 
sis which the Navy Bill placed upon capital ships, whereas 
in the war against the German submarine the great need was 
lighter and swifter craft. The Allies asked, accordingly, that 
the United States postpone the building of capital ships in 
order to concentrate upon destroyers. 

Since the United States desired above everything to bring 
effective assistance in the war against the submarine, they 
were anxious to meet this request. But they had also to con- 
sider what the ultimate effect would be upon their after-war 
naval strength if they neglected the building of capital ships. 
Would it be possible to enter into an arrangement with the 
British which would permit the United States to concentrate 
for the moment upon the building of destroyers and yet 
ensure the American Navy against the peril resulting from 
lack of capital ships, which, in the opinion of many experts, 
constituted the bulwark of naval strength? House raised the 
problem frankly with Balfour and Drummond. On May 13 
he wrote in his diary: 

'In talking with Drummond, I called attention to the 
Allied demand that we build submarine destroyers at the ex- 
pense of our major battleship programme. To do this would 
leave us at the end of the war where we are now, and in the 
event of trouble ... we would be more or less helpless at sea. 
I thought if Great Britain would agree to give us an option 
on some of her major ships in the event of trouble, ... we 
could go ahead with our destroyers without fear of subse- 
quent events. 

1 This opinion was advanced at the Paris Peace Conference. 


'Drummond replied that Germany's navy might be left 
intact after the war and Great Britain might have need of 
all her fleet in a further war with Germany. In this event I 
suggested we give Great Britain an option to read that in 
case of war with Germany we would return the battleships 
which we had taken over, and would give her in addition an 
option on some of our major ships. He is to take it up with 
Mr. Balfour and let me know the result.' 

Sir Eric Drummond to Colonel House 

WASHINGTON, May 14, 1917 


I have spoken to Mr. Balfour on the matter we discussed 
yesterday, and personally he welcomes your proposal most 
cordially. The subject is, however, of so great importance 
that he has thought it right to send a telegram to the Prime 
Minister to obtain his approval before proceeding further. 
I hope we shall have a reply within the next day or two, and 
if so I think Mr. Balfour may wish me to come at once to 
New York to discuss with you how best to take the next 
step. In any event I hope to be in New York again at the 
end of this week and will of course let you know as soon as 
I can make any definite plan. . . . 

Yours very sincerely 


No decision was made by the British until after the return 
of the Balfour Mission. Early in July House received from 
Mr. Balfour a cable which analyzed the problem in the light 
of the immediate submarine danger as well as of the future 
relations of the United States. 

Mr. Balfour's cable stated that the possibility of a naval 
agreement to permit the United States safely to concentrate 
upon destroyers and light craft instead of capital ships had 
been carefully considered by the War Cabinet. It was of 


vital importance, the British Admiralty believed, that the 
maximum number of destroyers be built. If the United 
States Government felt that its navy was likely to become 
dangerously unbalanced, the British Cabinet would be will- 
ing to consider some sort of defensive arrangement with the 
United States to meet the danger. Colonel House's proposal 
that the British agree to provide definite naval assistance to 
compensate for the unbuilt American capital ships was likely 
to raise, however, rather dangerous international issues. Mr. 
Balfour suggested therefore that the defensive agreement be 
made more general, and that the six major powers at war 
with Germany all enter into a naval agreement providing for 
mutual assistance against any maritime attack for a period 
of four years after the conclusion of the present war. 1 

Colonel House did not like the suggestion as well as his 
own plan providing that the British give the United States 
a definite option on certain British capital ships to be exer- 
cised in case of future trouble. Perhaps he feared lest the 
general defensive agreement should develop into something 
similar to a formal alliance that might arouse the opposition 
of American opinion. In Mr. Balfour's plan may be dis- 
covered the germ of the Naval Treaties of 1922, which were 
later concluded by the Harding Administration. 

Colonel House to the President 

July 8, 1917 


I am enclosing a cable which I have just received from 
Balfour. I am sending it in duplicate so you will have a copy 
for the State Department. No one knows of these negotia- 
tions excepting Lansing and Polk 

Breckinridge Long who is here to-day is taking this letter. 

I cannot see that the solution Balfour suggests would be 

1 Balfour to House, July 5, 1917. 


of much service excepting that it would prevent Japan from 
falling into the hands of Germany and forming a combina- 
tion against us. 

In the event of trouble between Japan and ourselves, or 
other parties to the agreement, they would be forced to be 
neutral, or if there was war between any of the signatory 
powers, the others would necessarily be neutral. 

That is not quite what we had in mind. I see no reason 
why our first proposal should not be accepted, and I see no 
reason why it should offend Japan or any other nation if 
known. What I suggested was that in view of our diverting 
government shipbuilding in our naval yards from the con- 
struction of capital battleships to that of vessels suitable for 
anti-submarine warfare, and the building of a merchant 
marine in order not to interrupt the supplying of the Allies 
with necessary materials for the continuation of the war, 
Great Britain should agree to give us an option on the pur- 
chase of such capital battleships as we might wish to replace 
those which we discontinued building because of our desire 
to aid them. 

This would not be directed against Japan any more than 
it would be against France, Italy, Russia or even England 

Sir William Wiseman expects to return to England early 
next week and before going he will spend a day with me here. 
Will you not let me know your conclusions so I may discuss 
the matter with him and let him in turn take it up with his 

If the English are afraid of Germany, it seems to me it 
would be reasonable to include in the agreement a clause by 
which in the event of war between Germany and England, 
they might demand the return of these capital battle- 

Affectionately yours 



On July 13 President Wilson invited Wiseman to discuss 
outstanding problems before his visit to England; in the 
course of the conversation they came to the naval proposals 
of Balfour and House. Wilson was not enthusiastic in sup- 
port of either plan. He did not like the idea of anything 
approaching an alliance with the major European powers 
and Japan, even one limited in its scope to a purely defensive 
naval agreement. Nor did he agree with House that the 
question of capital ships was one of vital importance. The 
exigencies of the submarine war, he felt, would in any case 
lead to an emphasis upon the building of destroyers at the 
expense of capital ships; he seemed quite satisfied that this 
would not touch the effectiveness of the American navy after 
the war. Sir William's notes of this part of the conversation 

Wiseman Memorandum upon Conference with the President 

July 13, 1917 

'Wilson produced a memorandum from House regarding 
the proposed modification of the United States shipbuilding 
programme. Wilson said that he was not familiar with this 
proposition, and was therefore discussing it somewhat in the 
dark. In his own words he was "thinking aloud to me." 
His observations were approximately as follows: 

'That in his opinion the war had proved that capital ships 
were not of much value; that with this in view he did not 
consider the question of the United States delaying the 
building of capital ships as very important from a strategic 
point of view. He explained, however, that when Congress 
voted money for the naval programme, a specific estimate 
had to be made of the exact number of the different classes 
of ships upon which the money had to be spent. It would 
therefore be unlawful for him to change that programme and 
alter the number of ships to be built. The only way in which 
this could be done would be by laying the whole facts before 


'When asked for a suggested solution [of the problem of 
defense against the submarine], he stated that he had 
always been opposed to allowing merchantmen to cross the 
Atlantic without convoy; that he was strongly in favor of 
forcing merchantmen to cross in fleets adequately protected 
by light naval craft. That he believed some such arrange- 
ment was now being put in force; that when the merchant- 
men reached some point near the British coast, lanes should 
be formed, strongly guarded by destroyers, through which 
the merchantmen could pass, and, again, when they were 
quite close to shore they should radiate to the various ports. 
He suggested that if some such scheme could be devised as 
an American scheme it would undoubtedly require a larger 
number of destroyers than the United States at present have, 
but that he could go to Congress with this scheme and ask 
for an appropriation specifically for this purpose. That as 
far as shipbuilding accommodation was concerned there 
would be no difficulty in delaying the building of capital 
ships and to make room for the laying down of destroyers, if 

'With regard to Balfour's suggestion covering the naval 
shipbuilding difficulty by some species of defensive alli- 
ance: Wilson stated that in his opinion the Allies had 
entered during the stress of war into various undertakings 
among each other which they would find it very difficult if 
not impossible to carry out when the war was over; and he 
was not in favor of adding to that difficulty. Moreover he 
pointed out that while the U.S. was now ready to take her 
place as a world-power, the strong feeling throughout the 
country was to play a "lone hand" and not to commit her- 
self to any alliance with any foreign power. With regard to 
Japan, Wilson said that in his opinion a successful attack on 
the Pacific coast was absurd owing to the long distance from 
the Japanese base and the difficulty they would have in ob- 
taining any suitable base on the Pacific coast. The possibil- 


ity of their attacking the Philippines or some outlying posses- 
sion was, he thought, quite another matter, and presented a 
possibility which could not be overlooked/ 

Colonel House was not convinced that the day of the 
capital ship had passed. Until this was certified by naval 
experts he believed that it was the duty of the Administra- 
tion to provide full insurance for the defense of the United 
States. 'There may be something in the future,' he noted in 
his diary on July 14, 'but up to now Great Britain's success- 
ful blockade of Germany is maintained because she has a 
superiority in capital battleships/ 

Colonel House to the President 

July 17, 1917 


... I have a feeling that he [Wiseman] misunderstood you 
[concerning the value of capital battleships] for surely the 
present control of the seas is solely due to the superiority of 
the British Fleet in capital ships. No amount of smaller craft 
could take their place. While they are not effective in sub- 
marine warfare yet, submarine warfare is as distinct a phase 
of sea warfare as aircraft are in land warfare. I think it is 
true to-day as it was before the war that the nation having 
the most powerful capital battleships in both size and speed 
is the nation that will dominate the sea. 

I hope you will insist upon some arrangement with Eng- 
land by which this country may obtain some of their capital 
ships at the end of the war, in the event we should wish them. 
The arrangement would be a safe one, for they need not be 
taken if not desired. I discussed this question thoroughly 
with Lord Fisher and other British naval men and there was 
no disagreement as far as I can remember. 

Affectionately yours 



To this letter the President returned no specific response, 
and the discussion lapsed during the summer. Late in Au- 
gust, in answer to an inquiry of Sir William Wiseman, who was 
then in England, House cabled that the 'capital ship ques- 
tion is lagging because of pressure of matters of immediate 
urgency/ But when Wilson came up to visit House on the 
North Shore in September the question was again raised, 
House emphasizing the need and value of capital ships, the 
President at once skeptical of their value and convinced of 
the impossibility of a satisfactory arrangement with the 
British. 1 Colonel House thus describes the discussion with 
Wilson in his diary of September 9: 

'After I had made an argument in favor of capital ships, 
he refused to discuss the question further, declaring that no 
matter whether I was right or he was right, it was impracti- 
cable to make an arrangement with Great Britain at this 
time looking to our securing some of her capital battleships 
after the war in consideration of our abandoning our ship- 
building programme of capital ships in order to build sub- 
marine destroyers. He thought the only thing that could be 
binding on Great Britain would be a treaty, and a treaty 
must necessarily go to the Senate for confirmation. He did 
not believe this country was prepared for a treaty of that 
sort with Great Britain. Anything less than a treaty he 
thought footless, because the present administration might 
change and the British Government might change, and what 
would a verbal agreement amount to under new administra- 
tions? I argued that an arrangement could be made which 
would meet the approval of our people. He in turn said if 
the British Government wanted to do this after the war, 
they would do it anyway, and if they did not want to do it, 
we had no means of making them short of a treaty. . . .' 

1 British naval expert opinion supported Wilson rather than House, in 
so far as it declared that the American navy was already relatively strong 
in capital ships (except battle cruisers) and weak in the categories of fast 
light cruisers and destroyers. 


Because of the imminence of the submarine peril and the 
representations of the Allies, the American naval authorities 
used the discretion left them by Congress to bend all their 
energies towards the building of light craft. Only two battle- 
ships, the Mississippi and New Mexico, were completed and 
commissioned while the United States was at war, and these 
had been started before we became a belligerent. The keels 
of two others, the Maryland and Tennessee, were laid before 
the armistice. 'Work on capital ships of the 1916 pro- 
gramme,' according to a Navy Department report, 'was 
virtually suspended during the period of the war in order 
to concentrate the facilities of the experienced shipbuild- 
ing plants upon the destroyer programme and other types 
needed to cope with the submarine problem.' l 

When the war ended, of the ten battleships provided for 
by the 1916 programme, only two had been completed and 
nothing had been done on the six battle cruisers authorized 
by that programme. It is obviously a matter of conjecture 
or of expert opinion as to whether the American Navy was 
unduly weakened thereby during the months that elapsed 
before the conclusion of the Washington Treaties in 1922. 


The disagreement between the President and Colonel 
House over the question of capital ships did not affect ap- 

1 Letter from Navy Department, July 29, 1926. 'Under Acts of Con- 
gress dated 4 March, 1917 and 6 October, 1917,' the letter adds, '235 
destroyers, in addition to the 50 required by the 1916 programme were 
laid down; the contracts for six of these were subsequently cancelled, 
leaving 229 destroyers of the emergency programme which were actually 
completed. Of the 50 destroyers authorized in the 1916 programme, 38 
were contracted for and built. 

'During the period of the war, 6 April, 1917 to 11 November, 1918, 44 
destroyers were completed. Of these the keels of five had been laid prior 
to April 6, 1917. 

'No capital ships were built entirely within the period of the war. The 
building period of capital ships is materially longer than the 17 months 
period of actual hostilities.' 


parently the former's confidence in House's judgment, for it 
was during this period that Wilson opened up to House all the 
sources of official information coming in to Washington and 
encouraged him to develop his personal relations with indi- 
viduals in Europe able to summarize unofficial opinion. 
House received long letters from our Ambassador in Rome, 
Thomas Nelson Page, Minister Egan in Copenhagen, and 
Counsellor Frazier in Paris. To him were sent copies of the 
cablegrams from our European embassies and legations to 
the State Department. He also received the personal im- 
pressions of Henri Bergson in France, of Sir Horace Plunkett 
in Ireland, and of such American journalists as Grasty and 

Of the correspondence in House's files, nothing is more 
interesting than that with the great Irish statesman Plunk- 
ett. During his European visits in 1915 and 1916 Colonel 
House had developed the most intimate relations with 
Plunkett; the latter's knowledge of the United States, his 
close friendship with Mr. Balfour, his sympathetic under- 
standing of opinion on both sides of the Atlantic, enabled 
him to analyze the European situation in terms most useful 
for an American. In the days of American neutrality he had 
earnestly desired and assiduously labored to smooth Anglo- 
American relations. 'I hold,' he had written to House in 
December, 1916, 'that the best hope of a lasting peace lies 
in a right mutual understanding between the peoples of the 
American Republic and of the British Empire. For this 
reason I have, as you know, done my best to explain to our 
Government the difficulties of the President's position, which 
my long acquaintance with the Middle Western States has 
enabled me to understand. I wish to continue this slight 
service; and I should not have come across the Atlantic this 
year had I not wished to make it more efficient by further 
study of public opinion in those parts of your country which 
count most politically and of which least is known in England/ 


One of the most dangerous sources of Anglo-American dis- 
agreement has always existed in the problem of Ireland, and 
crises in the history of the Irish struggle for self-government 
have invariably been reflected in American politics. The 
1916 rebellion and its suppression had been followed in the 
United States by expressions of anti-British sentiments, 
some of them upon the floor of the Senate itself. If general 
sympathy developed with the Sinn Fein movement, which 
grew rapidly after the executions of 1916, and if it stimulated 
strong anti-British feelings in the United States, the diffi- 
culties of Anglo-American cooperation in the war against 
Germany would be tremendously increased. In these circum- 
stances it was fortunate that Colonel House was in such 
close relations with the one Irishman of moderate views 
most capable of explaining the situation to President Wilson; 
especially fortunate was it that in the summer of 1917 Sir 
Horace Plunkett became chairman of the Irish Convention 
called to discover a reasonable settlement of the Irish ques- 
tion, and which sat all through the summer and autumn. 
With the approval of the British Government, Sir Horace was 
permitted to send Colonel House, for Wilson's information, 
the secret reports which he wrote of the Convention proceed- 
ings. These he amplified with personal letters and cables, 
of which the following is typical. 

Sir Horace Plunkett to Colonel House 

DUBLIN, September 28, 1917 

Sir William Wiseman conveyed to me a personal request 
from the President that I would keep him confidentially in- 
formed of the progress of the Irish Convention. At the same 
time I was commanded by the King to write a Secret Report 
for him, and I asked leave to make the same document serve 
the double purpose. I understand that the first two instal- 
ments of this Report were taken out by Sir William but, by 


some accident, I was not informed, and only to-day have I 
learned from Arthur Balfour that I am free to send the 
further instalments to you for submission to the President. 
Three more have been printed and will, I hope, be sent to 
you by the Foreign Office at once. I am struggling to write 
the sixth, which will bring the story up to date ; but in the ex- 
treme pressure of Convention work it is hard to get the time. 

Yesterday we ended a three days' sitting in Cork and 
brought the first stage of our proceedings to a conclusion. 
I was determined to make the Convention reveal its entire 
mind before I let it adjourn so that a thoroughly representa- 
tive Committee of workable size might try to agree upon a 
measure to be submitted to the whole body. ... In order to 
get a free expression of opinion, it was necessary to keep our 
deliberations absolutely secret. No stenographer is allowed 
to attend though one member of the Secretariat is an old 
newspaper reporter and gets down a good deal. But I need 
not add to what you will see in my Secret Report, unless to 
tell you that, on the whole, I am hopeful that we may get the 
Irish Question out of the way of your and the President's 
efforts to bring about a right mutual understanding between 
the two democracies. 

I do wish you could send me, through a safe channel, your 
own view of the position and prospects of that great work. 
Medill McCormick spent a week-end with me a short time 
ago and gave me the only insight I had had into that part of 
the American situation which interested me most the atti- 
tude of the Middle West towards the war. I always thought 
and I think you knew that this great silent community 
had been wholly misjudged that they had more character 
and a higher idealism than was to be found in the better- 
known sections of the United States. All that McCormick 
told me certainly confirmed this judgment. Anything you 
can tell me about this and other matters will be most grate- 
fully received and, if it saved your time, which must be more 


than ever occupied, I would send copies of the letter to 
Arthur Balfour and any other of the people whom you have 
taken into your confidence over here. 

Please give my kindest remembrances to Mrs. House and 
believe me to be 

Very sincerely yours 


It thus came about that President Wilson was kept fully 
informed of the progress of the Irish crisis and the attempt 
to settle it. Upon the basis of this information he was able 
to resist the pressure brought upon him to sponsor protests 
against British policy in Ireland, which would certainly have 
ruined Anglo-American cooperation in the war. He was also 
able to intimate that while the Irish problem was none of 
America's official business, sympathy with Irish aspirations 
was so strong that Anglo-Ajnerican relations would never 
be entirely right until these aspirations were satisfied. At 
times the situation became critical in the extreme. As 
Plunkett wrote in the following April, 'It is all in the lap 
of the gods, who must be laughing or weeping according to 
their mood.' But at all times the President had the au- 
thoritative information which enabled him to avoid the pit- 
falls surrounding our relations with Great Britain. 


When soon after the entrance of the United States into the 
war, the French and British Governments decided to send 
over special missions of coordination under Tardieu and 
Northcliffe respectively, it was natural that they should soon 
come into intimate contact with Colonel House. He was 
generally reported to be the man closest to the all-powerful 
President and his conferences with members of the Allied 
Governments during his European visits had revealed his 
influence. Officially he had nothing to do with the plans for 



organizing Allied demands on the United States and the 
arrangements by which they were met and financed. His 
papers, however, give us a glimpse of certain aspects of the 
various problems, since the Allied Commissioners laid their 
difficulties before him and always kept him informed of the 
progress of negotiations that finally led to effective inter- 
allied cooperation. The Tardieu Mission arrived first, led by 
the distinguished journalist and historian, fresh from active 
service at the front, now entering upon a career of adminis- 
trative organization which culminated in his appointment 
upon the French Peace Commission and prepared him for 
entrance nine years later into Poincare's ministry of all the 

'On April 16, 1917, ten days after America had declared 
war/ writes Tardieu, 'it fell to my lot to direct on behalf of 
France our common effort. Actor and spectator for thirty- 
one months, I am still, ten years later, amazed at the pro- 
digious results obtained by the two countries. Ever- 
memorable days, when twice the war seemed lost; days 
pregnant with victory; days during which the initial effort of 
1917, so weak and halting, grew beneath the spur of danger, 
grew by the progress of mutual understanding. . . . Astound- 
ing figures tell of the effort made, the help mutually fur- 
nished. In less than eighteen months the United States 
armed itself to the teeth An almost unbelievable achieve- 
ment if one remembers the past, the existing circumstances 
(both material and moral), the absence of military prepared- 
ness, the total ignorance of things European. During all this 
time, France and Great Britain held the front waiting for the 
arrival of American reinforcements, the one providing trans- 
port, the other arms for the United States Army The 

splendour of this achievement led people to believe that it 
had been spontaneous. None had been more difficult/ l 

1 Tardieu, France and America, 215. 


Tardieu confesses that upon his arrival he found the pro- 
spect discouraging. It was for him to arrange a mechanism 
of coordination between the needs of France and the supply- 
power of the United States. 

'The problem of cooperation/ he writes, 'how to pass from 
numbers to organization, from manufacture to armament, 
from inexperience to efficiency; and, in each of these, how to 
conciliate contrary necessities. The undertaking, every one 
admitted, might well have proved beyond human possibility. 
When I assumed responsibility for it, I knew that even those 
in whose name I was acting had no faith in its success. My 
Government, in bidding me God-speed, had said: "Do the 
best you can."' l 

During the months that followed, Tardieu, assailed by the 
demands of his Government, strove with the problem of 
securing supplies for the French army at the moment that 
the United States was endeavoring to build up its own upon 
an unprecedented scale. 2 As he wrote, 'Any shortcoming in 

1 Tardieu, France and America, 217. 

2 Tardieu (ibid., 224-25) gives the following examples of cabled orders 
sent from Paris to the French High Commission in Washington: 

'May 27th, from Food Ministry: "The cereal supply is threatened. 
Rush shipments as quickly as possible." 

'May 28th, from Ministry of Munitions: "Send 1000 lorries urgent." 

'May 29th, from Transport Ministry: "Indispensable secure immedi- 
ately 30,000 tons shipping for food-supply devastated regions." 

'June 3d, from Ministry of Munitions: "Increase shipments copper to 
10,000 tons monthly." 

'June 5th, from Ministry of Agriculture: "Send all haste 400 reapers 

'June 6th, from Ministry of Marine: "Send 12,000 tons gasoline for 
merchant marine and 24,000 tons for navy." 

'June llth, from Ministry of Munitions: "Increase shipments nitrate 
to 46,000 tons monthly instead of 15,000. Vital for national defense. 
You must arrange for this in addition to programme." 

'June 13th, from Ministry of Munitions: "Send 2000 tons of lead 

'June 16th, from Ministry of Munitions: "Send 6500 small trucks/* 

'June 16th, from Food Ministry: "Arrange for 80,000 tons wheat in 
excess of programme. Most serious situation ever. Any failure or delay 
may prove dangerous. 999 


the adjustment of effort, any breakdown in the machinery 

of supply, might have left our soldiers weaponless Day 

after day the orders came over This list reads like a 

nightmare. For how were all these demands to be met?' 
With the intensive submarine campaign, the British were 
forced to withdraw tonnage from the French service. 'On 
the docks in America, 600,000 tons of goods for France were 

waiting their turn for shipment There was a shortage of 

490,000 tons a month. That meant a shortage of everything 
that was essential in food supplies and war material, the 
things to eat and to fight with. And I was getting cables, 
"Ask the United States."' l 

The Tardieu Mission reached Washington on May 17, and 
eight days later he called upon Colonel House, who thus 
records the beginning of what became a lasting friendship : 

'May 25, 1917: Andr6 Tardieu, High Commissioner of 
France, called by appointment this afternoon. He brought 
letters of introduction from the French Ambassador and 
from our Paris Embassy. I told him he needed no introduc- 
tion, since he was well known as the author of the remarkable 
articles on the Agadir Incident which electrified the capitals 
of Europe. ... He wished to explain the needs of France, 
both from a military and an economic standpoint. I sug- 
gested that he write a letter covering the substance of our 
conversation. He is to write the letter to the President and 
send a copy of it to me. ... He seems to be an exceedingly 
able man and I do not doubt will serve his country well/ 

M. Andri Tardieu to Colonel House 

WASHINGTON, June 13, 1917 


I was very sorry that I could not see you again in New 
York, last week, nor give you further information regarding 
our work here. 

1 Tardieu, op. cit., 224. 


The two essential questions are still the question of ton- 
nage regarding which Mr. Denman said he could not set 
up any general plan earlier than within one or two weeks; 
and the question of the organization of war industries, 
regarding which it seems to me highly desirable that a 
final decision, which has been delayed as yet, should take 

Through such delay a condition of uncertainty has been 
created as regards the American market, and the prices 
quoted for the orders which are now being placed by us are 
certainly excessive. On the other hand, I could not possibly 
stop our orders, there being no cessation of our needs. 

I understand the reasons by which your Government's de- 
cision is being delayed. It seems absolutely necessary, how- 
ever, that such a decision should be made speedily. A satis- 
factory distribution of orders and the regularity of deliveries 
are unavoidably depending upon this decision. 

The question is not less important from the point of view 
of prices. You told me that, in your opinion, the armies of 
the Allies ought to pay the same prices as the American 
army. M. McAdoo, when last in Washington, told me that 
he agreed upon this principle; that a general requisition law 
was not possible, though; but that by means of friendly 
negotiations he hoped that an equality of conditions could 
be achieved 

As regards tonnage, I would like that the American Gov- 
ernment should promise now to let us have a definite propor- 
tion of the German tonnage seized in Brazil. I do not wish 
to start in Rio a negotiation which might counteract the 
negotiations of the U.S. Government. But it seems that by 
handling the matter yourselves alone in Rio, you could se- 
cure a certainty which would prove of great value in reference 
to our shipping within the next few months. I would like to 
know your own opinion regarding the matter. 

As to military affairs two points, which I believe to be 


essential, are still being held in suspense. In the present war 
there is no other way of learning the practice of war than 
making war. All school methods have been upset by the 
facts, and fighting is the only school of any value. I have 
been realizing that directly myself during my two years at 
the front. 

Therefore, I deem it is of the utmost importance that a 
sufficient number of American officers (not including officers 
on General Pershing's Staff) should, as soon as possible, 
spend, in France, a period of three months with our fighting 
units (Infantry Divisions or Brigades, or Artillery Staffs) 
and provide, therefore, for the American troops, either in 
the United States or in France, instructors taught and 
trained by the reality of war. 

To which Mr. Baker answers that you have only a small 
number of officers, which is true enough. But, by sending 
officers to be with our fighting units, you could within a few 
months secure a gain of one hundred per cent as regards the 
amount of time required for instruction. 

Moreover, you could send over very soon young men from 
American universities who are now in the training camps; 
this would spare time as well. Two months at the front 
means more than six months in a training camp. You ought 
to bear always in mind that since 1914 we promoted to 
officers 85,000 privates, and that they have become excellent 

Such is the true method to be applied to a national and 
democratic army. We have been, ourselves, hesitating a long 
time before adopting it, on account of old routine traditions 
which were, on the whole, German doctrines. I wish that 
you might profit by our own mistakes 

I am looking forward, my dear Colonel, to your coming 
some time to Washington, and I beg you to be good enough 
to let me know about it. 

I was so highly pleased with our conversation last week, 


that I would be glad if we could meet again, as you can do 
much towards bringing about our common victory. 
I am, my dear Colonel, with highest regard, 
Very truly yours 



Shortly after Tardieu's arrival, House received word from 
Sir Cecil Spring-Rice that the British Government had also 
decided to send a War Mission to the United States for the 
coordination of British war activities. As chief of the Mis- 
sion they selected no less a person than Lord Northcliffe, 
who was qualified for this difficult task as much by his super- 
abundant energy as by his conviction that American re- 
sources were necessary to turn the scales of war in favor of 
the Allies. His functions were outlined in a memorandum 
which Wiseman gave to House on May 31. 

Memorandum upon Proposed War Mission 

'The War Cabinet think it desirable to have some system 
of generally supervising and coordinating the work of the 
representatives of the various British departments in the 
United States who are employed there on matters connected 
with shipping, food supply, munitions, and War Office and 
Admiralty business. If there is no such coordination, the 
representatives of these departments would waste much 
valuable time and power, and especially would interfere with 
each other by mutual competition. 

' In view of these circumstances and of this danger which 
the War Cabinet consider as serious, they consider it essen- 
tial that for some months to come they should have in the 
United States an energetic and influential man of good busi- 
ness capacity and wide knowledge for purposes of general 
supervision and coordination. Mr. Balfour's mission has 
done excellent work, but it is strongly felt that much still 


remains to be done, especially with a view to bringing home 
to the United States Government the realities of the present 
war situation, and the necessity of immediate active and 
strenuous cooperation in the war, with the least delay 

'The War Cabinet therefore proposed that they should 
have a representative in the United States charged with the 
duty of ensuring to the best of his ability that all possible 
measures are taken in order to render America's resources 
available in the most effective manner and with the least 
possible delay. 

'He would have no diplomatic duties. Diplomatic rela- 
tions would remain in the same hands as heretofore, and the 
War Cabinet representative would apply to the British Em- 
bassy should he require diplomatic support for the purpose 
of carrying out the duties connected with his mission. 

'In the opinion of the War Cabinet Lord Northcliffe 
is suited for such an appointment, and they propose mak- 
ing the appointment at once with the duties above enumer- 
ated ' 

Northcliffe arrived early in June and remained in the 
United States until November, perhaps the darkest period of 
the war and certainly the most confused and discouraging 
from the standpoint of America's war effort. The cables 
which he sent to the British War Cabinet, copies of many 
of which he gave to Colonel House, reflect the same diffi- 
culties which Tardieu had to face. 

A nation like the United States, unaccustomed to central- 
ized control and unprepared for war contingencies, could not 
in the nature of things suddenly attempt to place itself upon 
a belligerent footing without producing confusion. It was the 
business of the Allied agencies in the United States to stimu- 
late America to increased production, which of itself led to 
more confusion; they must also secure for themselves all the 


supplies possible, and they must persuade the United States 
Treasury to lend them the money to pay for them. They 
found themselves competing with each other, since Allied 
demands were as yet uncoordinated, and frequently with the 
United States Government itself, which requisitioned ships, 
raw materials, and manufactured products upon which the 
Allied agents counted. They faced the prospect of increased 
prices, since there was as yet no centralized control over 
American industries. They must avoid all friction, since 
they were dependent upon the good temper of the American 
Treasury. On the other hand, the American Treasury had 
no safe guide as to which loans were most essential nor as to 
how priority should be determined. 

To this task Northcliff e brought interminable energy and 
complete disregard of the impossible, gilded with never- 
failing good temper. 'You may rely upon me never to use 
minatory language,' Northcliffe cabled to Mr. Balfour 
towards the close of his mission. "I have been dealing with 
these people for thirty years. Nothing can be gained here by 
threats, much by flattery and self-abnegation.' With all his 
experience in a life well stocked with problems, he confessed 
that he had never confronted a task crammed with so many 
difficulties. "The task is immense,' he cabled home, 'and 
ever growing. I have never worked so hard before.' 

Northcliffe was fully convinced of the vital importance of 
bringing the whole strength of the United States to bear upon 
the settlement of the war; he constantly impressed upon the 
British War Cabinet the need of arranging the closest sort 
of cooperation with America. 

Lord Northcliffe to Mr. Winston Churchill 


NEW YORK, July 27, 1917 

I have long believed war can only be won from here. The 
position is most difficult and delicate. Sir William Wiseman, 


Chief of our Military Intelligence here, should reach England 
in a few days. He is the only person, English or American, 
who has access to Wilson and House at all times. He had 
an hour and a half with Wilson last week and a day with 
House. The Administration is entirely run by these two 
men. Wilson's power is absolute and House is a wise assist- 
ant. Both are pro-English. 


House and Northcliffe came into touch soon after the 
latter's arrival, and there began a personal friendship which 
lasted until the latter's death. On his visits to England, 
House had met the great publisher casually, but evidently 
failed to take true measure of his size. He was soon to con- 
fess that he had been mistaken in his earlier estimate: 

* Northcliffe has never received the credit due him in the 
winning of the war,' wrote House after the Peace Conference. 
'He was tireless in his endeavors to stimulate the courage 
and energy of the Allies, and he succeeded in bringing them 
to a realization of the mighty task they had on their hands. 
He was among the first to grasp the significance of President 
Wilson's philippic against the German military autocracy, 
and the distinction he made between the Junkers and the 
German people. He caused these utterances of the American 
President to be sent into Germany by countless thousands, 
and did more than any single man, other than Wilson him- 
self, to break down the enemy's morale behind the lines. 9 

The references to Northcliffe in House's papers in the 
summer of 1917 all reflect increasing admiration and affec- 
tion. 'Northcliffe is doing good work,' he cabled to England 
on August 11, 'and is getting along well with every one.' 

'When Northcliffe left,' House wrote in his diary two days 
later, 'I asked Pollen l his opinion of his ability. He said he 

1 A. H. Pollen, naval expert and critic. 


knew Northcliffe well and liked him That his talent con- 
sisted in the newspaperman's instinct to know where to go 
for advice. I do not agree with him in this estimate. I think 
Northcliffe's success is due to his force more than to anything 
else. He is a dominating man with boundless energy. I like 
him the more I see of him/ 

'He does what he promises,' House wrote two months 
later, towards the close of Northcliffe's mission, 'and he rings 

Lord Northcliffe, on his side, evidently placed full con- 
fidence in House and found it advisable to seek his counsel 
and aid. He cabled Wiseman on August 26 of a certain mat- 
ter that demanded speed: 'I am doing everything through 
House, who acts remarkably quickly. For example yester- 
day, on leaving Washington at four o'clock, I sent him a 
message through Miller, 1 and on my arrival at New York 
at nine o'clock I found a reply message awaiting me.' Sir 
Campbell Stuart, Military Secretary to the British War Mis- 
sion, who, through tact and keen appreciation of all the 
elements in a difficult situation, contributed largely to its 
success, writes as follows: 

'Lord Northcliffe worked in close touch with Colonel 
House. He told me that he regarded him as one of the wisest 
men he had ever met. Through him he kept in communica- 
tion with the Administration. In addition he received very 
great assistance from Sir William Wiseman, the head of the 
British Intelligence Service in the United States.' 2 

Northcliffe brought to House copies of many of his most 
important reports so that he might make clear the difficulties 
of cooperation; he brought also matters which demanded the 
immediate notice of President Wilson and which might be 

1 David Hunter Miller. 

* Manuscript memorandum given to C. S. by Sir Campbell Stuart. 


delayed if they went through the regular official channels. 
This was true of the important analysis of the submarine 
situation in August, and of the acute crisis that resulted 
when the United States began to take over the output of the 
shipyards, even requisitioning tonnage already contracted 
for by the Allies. 

Lord Northcliffe to Colonel House 

NEW YORK, August 3, 1917 


I have received a cablegram from Sir W. saying that my 
Government have at length prepared an analysis giving the 
facts about the submarine losses, presumably for presenta- 
tion to the President. 

Would you kindly give me your advice as to whether I 
should submit it to you for your consideration and report to 
the President, or whether I should take it myself direct to 
him. 1 

I have just returned from being well broiled at Washing- 
ton. I was rather amused to find that the subject of the heat 
there is rather like that of earthquakes at San Francisco, and 
the local papers had the audacity to suggest that the District 
of Columbia as regards the heat question is no wickeder than 
any other part of the United States. 

With kind regards to Mrs. House, 

Yours sincerely 


NEW YORK, August 25, 1917 

Our people are evidently very agitated about this most 
delicate and difficult question of the British ships now build- 
ing here. The Censor is wisely stopping reference to it in the 

1 The memorandum was taken direct to the President and a copy sent 
to House. 


English newspapers, but that it will be raised in Parliament 
is very obvious. That it will create a very bad impression in 
Europe is equally obvious. Is there not some possible com- 
promise? . . . 

My instructions are to point out that my Government will 
keenly feel the blow, which will be a very serious one to 
England, if these ships are taken over by your Government. 

In the belief that the ships would not be transferred, public 
statements have been made by the Prime Minister in which 
these ships have been included in his estimates of British 

In view of the losses already sustained, the large propor- 
tion of our tonnage in direct war services and the complete 
subordination of our trade through war necessities, we can- 
not replace these vessels from British sources, and their loss 
must embarrass our military and naval activities. 

It is important that the United States Government should 
realize that we made arrangements to buy vessels before the 
United States entered the war and that we stopped directly 
such purchases might have become embarrassing to United 
States. 1 

1 The requisitioning of these ships naturally created a serious and an 
unpleasant situation, and aroused warm protests especially from the 
Australians. It raised the question of prestige, an additional complica- 
tion in the problem of cooperation. Thus the offer of the United States 
to lease the requisitioned vessels to Australia, on condition that they 
carried the American flag and American crews, was unsatisfactory, since 
in the mind of Premier Hughes of Australia it would be a 'blow against 
the naval and maritime supremacy of the British Empire/ Of greater 
immediate significance was the fear lest such requisitioning should form 
a precedent. 

'It is the opinion of influential people in Washington, 9 cabled North- 
cliff e to Wiseman on August 26, 'that having made no provision for war, 
the American Government may take advantage of various contracts we 
have here, to supply their army and navy with what they want. I be- 
lieve that neither the President nor House like this sort of thing, and I 
am hoping to get some kind of compromise about the ships so as to avoid 
the establishment of a precedent of confiscation/ 

The vigorous protests of the Allies succeeded in saving a portion of the 
requisitioned tonnage. 


My Government places itself entirely in the hands of the 
President Yours sincerely 


Even more difficult were the problems resulting from com- 
petition with the other Allies for securing American supplies. 
They did not present their demands as a coordinated unit, 
and what they secured often seemed to them to depend upon 
chance. Northcliffe, as a veteran journalist with perfect 
faith in the value of news, believed that the British were at 
a disadvantage because they failed to emphasize the im- 
portance of Great Britain's military effort. Extracts from 
his cables indicate the close connection in his mind between 
complete war news and American supplies. 

'August 15, 1917 : X and Y,' he wrote, ' are naturally work- 
ing for themselves. . . . They visit House about once a 

month We have no British Military Representative who 

has seen anything of the war. The American soldiers in 
France write home only about the French army. Nothing 
is heard of our fleet. House assured me that the President 
was absolutely aware of the great part we had played in the 

* House said : "You ought to send to Washington a British 
soldier of high distinction and war experience. We don't 
want a military mission, but it would be advantageous to us 
if you send such an officer and if he were afterwards reen- 
forced by officers in various branches of the service with 
technical experience gained recently in the field." l 

'All this has a direct bearing on the money situation and 
upon McAdoo's position before Congress. 2 

1 Sir Henry Wilson, who later became Chief of the British Imperial 
Staff, was selected by the British War Committee as chief of such a mis- 
sion. 'I flatly refused to go/ wrote Wilson in his diary. Callwell, 
Field Marshal Sir William Robertson, n, 11. 

'See infra, p. 114. 


'August 21, 1917: Things are not going well with us at 
Washington. Geoffrey Butler considers and I agree that we 
need the visit of some very prominent war characters. I have 
sent Smuts a cablegram which he will show you if you ask. 
The highest authorities here cannot understand why we do 
not make our case better known. Wiseman will ... tell you 
that certain leaders are with us and if it were not for them 

the French would get everything I wish you would use 

every effort with those concerned to release Smuts for a six 
weeks' visit here. He could easily say things that would be 
difficult for an Englishman to say. 

'September 1, 1917: The kind of problem that faces one 
every morning is typified by the following which reaches me 
from War Department in Washington: "We should be glad 
if you would send us for our information whatever material 
you might receive concerning the progress of the war and 
matters of general interest for the confidential information of 
our Chief of Staff and Secretary of War." This is a matter 
that obviously should have been taken up ... directly the 
United States entered the war. The result of this kind of 
neglect on our part is that the United States Government 
has no notion of what we are doing in the war. Newspapers 
give the impression that the war is being fought by France 
and Canada. At a popular theatre here one of the scenes de- 
picted nightly is of Canadian troops returning from the 
battlefield to their meals which are being cooked for them by 
British soldiers. This ignorance indirectly affects all our 

financial efforts at Washington It would be well if you 

spoke to General Maurice. He issued a statement yesterday 
which appeared only in very few papers giving the propor- 
tion of the British and Canadian troops in the war. Such 
statements have no effect because they are drowned by the 
daily accounts of the deeds of the brave Manitobans and 
Montrealers, the wonderful feats of the French flying men 
and the huge captures of prisoners by the Italians. 


'September 8, 1917: There is no German propaganda 
against the French. The whole Irish and German propa- 
ganda is to the effect that we are getting all the money and 
are doing little of the work. We do our utmost to counteract 
these impressions by means of my personal influence with 
friends on the American Press, but we have far to go before 
we shall have placed ourselves on an equality with the 
French here, and to do so we must at least be as well equipped, 
scientifically and otherwise, as they are/ 

Northcliffe not merely used his influence with friends on 
the American Press, but exerted himself in every way to 
come into close contact with the leaders of industry, so as 
to hasten and simplify the delivery of supplies for the British. 
When a misunderstanding arose over the offer of Henry 
Ford to send six thousand tractors to the British Food Pro- 
duction Department at cost, Northcliffe himself settled the 
matter and incidentally discovered in the great American 
industrialist a personality which piqued his interest and 

'I have endeavored to get into touch with Ford/ he wrote 
on October 6, 'but he has twice put me off. It may be neces- 
sary for me to go to Detroit and eat humble pie, and if so 
will do so gladly. Ford is entirely indifferent to financial 

'October 14, 1917: 1 have no desire for further long jour- 
neys, but it is considered important by those who are behind 
the scenes that I should go out to Detroit, and I propose 
arriving there Tuesday or Wednesday next. Edison, an in- 
timate friend of Ford and an old friend of mine, has arranged 
matters. . . . 

'October 17, 1917: 1 spent yesterday with Ford. The con- 
struction of the tractors is being pressed forward with im- 
mense energy Ford is not in the tractor business for 


money, but because he believes it will revolutionize the 
home life of England, to which country he is attached. The 
arrival of the tractors in England should be treated in the 
American way, and if possible, the Prime Minister should be 
cinematographed with them. ... I have seen many tractors, 
but in my personal judgment the Ford tractor is as great a 
revolution in cheap efficiency as the Ford motor car. Ford, 
who looks like the Bishop of London, is an anti-militarist 

ascetic and must not be treated as a commercial man 

'Ford wants a copy of Cobbett's "Rural Rides," and of 
Tennyson's "Letters," which were published some years ago 
by his son. Please send the books direct to him at Detroit, 
with my compliments, in case I should be on my way home 
by the time the books get there/ 

Northcliffe had the satisfaction of seeing the American 
effort acquire momentum during the period of his mission. 
* These people are getting deeply into the war/ he cabled to 
his brother on September 7, 'and are most resolute. Things 
are running more smoothly now.' He had also the satis- 
faction of seeing the British War Cabinet emphasize more 
definitely the necessity of close cooperation with the United 
States. In August Sir William Wiseman cabled to him: 

'The Government every day realizes more fully the im- 
portance of the United States and are coming to the point 
of view which I know you hold, namely, that America must 
be treated as our most important ally. There is, however, 
need for this truth to be kept constantly before the Cabinet, 
owing to the great distance of America and the fact that 
members of the Government have little personal knowledge 
of Washington affairs. I believe that I have impressed the 
Government with the vital importance of keeping the Presi- 
dent fully and frankly informed about everything and also 
the necessity of prompt replies to your telegrams.' 


Lord Northcliffe not merely realized the potential re- 
sources of the United States, but from the beginning insisted 
that if a proper mechanism of cooperation were devised 
American supplies would be forthcoming in time; he insisted 
also that unless the Allies presented their demands for money 
and supplies in coordinated form, the confusion resultant 
upon the attempt to speed up American effort might result 
in disaster. This was precisely the conclusion reached by 
Tardieu, with whom, as Sir Campbell Stuart reports, 
'throughout his stay Lord Northcliffe worked hand in hand/ 
The need of such coordination in Allied demands became 
especially obvious in the financial problems of the summer of 
1917, upon which the papers of Colonel House throw some 


Before the American soldier, the American dollar turned the tide. 

Andrt Tardieu, in France and America 


As the student turns over the bulky manuscripts relating to 
the interests and activities of Colonel House during the war, 
he is surprised, perhaps, to note the number and size of those 
relating to financial problems. For years, House had given 
up active interest in business, which he confessed bored him, 
and had centered his attention on problems of government. 
He was certainly not regarded as an expert in financial af- 
fairs; it was so long since he had been to Wall Street, or even 
below Twenty-Third Street, that he could not remember 
when, if ever, he had visited the financial center of the 
United States. Nevertheless, in his files are bundles of papers 
bearing witness to long conferences with the financial repre- 
sentatives of the Allied Powers, and numerous detailed and 
quite technical memoranda that passed between him and 
Lord Northcliffe, or the British Ambassador, or Mr. Balfour. 
Most of the financial and supply problems of the war could 
doubtless have been settled with comparative ease by the 
business experts of each country if they could have been 
given a free hand without the intrusion of political factors. 
Such was not the case; international difficulties and jealous- 
ies created situations which disturbed the statesmen, who, 
with justification or not, felt it necessary to interfere. Colo- 
nel House, whose one desire in the summer of 1917 was to 
assist the President in the development of the diplomatic 
offensive against German morale, found himself brought into 
touch with various financial questions which, simple as they 


might seem to financiers, unquestionably brought the keen- 
est worry to the politicians. 

It is far from the purpose of this chapter to sketch the 
financial history of America's relations with the Allies, of 
which the papers of Colonel House would doubtless fail to 
give a comprehensive view. It is important, however, to note 
his connection with them, since the financial difficulties of 
the summer led directly to the American War Mission of the 
autumn, which he was chosen to head. 

The essential facts of the financial history of 1917 were 
simple : The Allies were compelled to ask for loans from the 
United States of a size which frightened the American Treas- 
ury, and which, even if the credits should be given, might be 
difficult to justify to the American taxpayer. The war was 
costing sums which were quite inconceivable to the ordinary 
citizen, and the Allies had begun to scrape the bottom of the 
chest. Unless the United States helped out freely, the mili- 
tary effort in the field could not be maintained. As Lord 
Northcliffe cabled late in the summer, the American Govern- 
ment was 'appalled by magnitude of financial task. They 
are complete masters of the situation as regards ourselves, 
Canada, France, Italy, and Russia. Loan to us strongly op- 
posed by powerful section of Congress. If loan stops, war 
stops.' l 

The demands of the Allies were probably justified by the 
extent and cost of the military undertaking, but they were 
not understood by the American people. On the other hand, 
the Allies were too busy dealing with vital and critical ques- 
tions in the theater of war to give time to a complete and 
reiterated explanation of the situation. The British financial 
representatives in the United States were men of unusual 
ability. Sir Hardman Lever had formerly been financial 
Secretary to the Treasury and possessed wide knowledge of 
American business affairs; Sir Richard Crawford had had 

1 H. Wickham Steed, Through Thirty Years, n, 143. 


Mr. McAdoo was anxious to help the Allies with credits so 
far as possible. From April 1 to July 14 the United States 
advanced to Great Britain close to 140,000,000 and to the 
other allies 90,000,000, altogether well over a billion dollars. 
He was unable, however, to promise regular monthly credits 
at the rate desired by the Allies. Nor could he agree to the 
suggestion that indebtedness of the British Government in- 
curred before the United States entered the war should be 
liquidated through loans of the United States Government; 
he had engaged himself in a parliamentary agreement to the 
effect that credits voted by Congress should not be used for 
that purpose. This was carefully explained to the British 
War Mission in July: * House said,' Northcliffe cabled to Mr. 
Lloyd George, 'that the whole forthcoming winter will be 
spent in Congressional wranglings about finance, and for this 
reason McAdoo must be in a position to make perfectly clear 
that the money of the people of the United States was not 
being used for the benefit of ... Wall Street and the Money 
Power to which the Democracy so strongly objects/ 

The situation seemed less desperate, perhaps, to the finan- 
cial experts than it did to Allied political leaders, for it was 
likely that supplies would be exhausted before credits could 
be used. Thus in October, Lord Reading cabled to England: 
'What will save the United States Treasury, as it has saved 
ours in the past, will be the material limitation on what it is 
possible to buy. Goods will not in fact be forthcoming on a 
sufficient scale to absorb the vast credits to which the De- 
partments and the Allies are becoming entitled.' None the 
less, the political leaders in Europe, as well as Northcliffe in 
the United States, were constantly caught in the nightmare 
that the loans would be refused: "If loan stops, war stops.' 
Hence the frequent appeals to House, asking his help in ex- 
plaining their need to the Administration. 














One of the most interesting appeals came at the end of 
June. Through some misunderstanding the British Ambas- 
sador gathered that in order to liquidate the Morgan loans on 
the date desired, July 1, it would be necessary for the British 
to sell collateral. The securities were perfectly sound, of the 
highest character; but with American Government loans 
overhanging the market, it would be difficult to sell American 
securities in large amounts at satisfactory prices. What 
chiefly disturbed the British leaders, however, was their fear 
that if the news of the selling of collateral were noised abroad, 
the effect would inevitably be disastrous to exchange and 
to the credit of the British Government. The British Secre- 
tary for Foreign Affairs evidently regarded the moment as 

Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, June 29, 1917 

For reasons fully explained to Page here and to Spring- 
Rice in Washington, we seem on the verge of a financial dis- 
aster which would be worse than defeat in the field. If we 
cannot keep up exchange neither we nor our Allies can pay 
our dollar debts. We should be driven off the gold basis, and 
purchases from the U.S.A. would immediately cease and the 
Allies' credit would be shattered. A consequence which 
would be of incalculable gravity may be upon us on Mon- 
day next if nothing effective is done in the mean time. You 
know I am not an alarmist, but this is really serious. I 
hope you will do what you can in proper quarters to avert 
calamity. 1 


1 It should be clearly understood that this appeal, as well as that 
printed on p. 106, was made in behalf of the Allies as a whole and not of 
Great Britain alone. 


Colonel House to President Wilson 


July 11, 1917 

Since Balfour's cable I have been keeping in intimate 
touch with the financial differences between the British 
Government and the Treasury Department and I am glad to 
tell you that everything seems on the road to an amicable 
adjustment. . . . 

I have brought McAdoo and Wiseman in touch and since 
Sir William is sympathetic with McAdoo's point of view I 
believe another such crisis can be avoided in the future. It 
will be necessary, however, for the British to send out an- 
other financial man. . . . 

Affectionately yours 


A few days after sending this letter, Colonel House re- 
ceived a visit from Lord Northcliffe at Magnolia. The chief 
of the British War Mission laid before him the statistics of 
British expenditure since the United States entered the war 
and the vital need of regular financial assistance from the 
United States. He recognized the help thus far given, which 
in a period of about fourteen weeks amounted to over a bil- 
lion dollars to the various Allies (229 million pounds). For 
the same period, however, Great Britain had advanced to the 
Allies 193 million pounds. 1 The United States, moreover, 
had limited its assistance to the expenditure incurred by the 
Allies within the United States. Great Britain had been un- 
able to adopt this attitude, but had supported the burden of 

1 British advances to other Allies (April 1-July 14, 1917) : 193,849,000. 

United States advances to other Allies (April 1-July 14, 1917): 90,- 

United States advances to British (April 1-July 14, 1917): 139,245,- 

Thus the net advances of Great Britain amounted to about 54 million 
pounds; of the United States about 229 million pounds. 


Allied expenditure in various parts of the world. Without 
this support, the Allies would have been unable to obtain 
supplies of food and munitions which were essential to the 
prosecution of the war. Great Britain was still financing the 
purchases of Russia in the United States. The total expendi- 
ture of the British since the United States entered the war 
was more than 800 million pounds, and they had received 
from the American Government slightly less than 140 million 
pounds in loans. Furthermore, during the years previous to 
the entrance of the United States the British had spent over 
four and a quarter billion pounds, making a total of more 
than five billion to the middle of July, 1917. 

' It is after having supported an expenditure of this magni- 
tude for three years,' Northcliffe told Colonel House, 'that 
the United Kingdom ventures to appeal to the United States 
Government for sympathetic consideration in financial dis- 
cussion, where the excessive urgency of her need and the 
precariousness of her position may somewhat impart a tone 
of insistence to her requests for assistance which would be out 
of place in ordinary circumstances. . . . 

'Our resources available for payments in America are ex- 
hausted. Unless the United States Government can meet in 
full our expenses in America, including exchange, the whole 
financial fabric of the alliance will collapse. This conclusion 
will be a matter not of months but of days. 

'The question is one of which it is necessary to take a large 
view. If matters continue on the same basis as during the 
last few weeks a financial disaster of the first magnitude can- 
not be avoided. In the course of August the enemy will re- 
ceive the encouragement of which he stands in so great need, 
at the moment of the war when perhaps he needs it most/ 

At the same time Mr. Balfour again cabled to Colonel 
House, asking him to impress upon the President the vital 


importance which the Allies attached to their request. What 
they needed was the assurance of an immediate advance suf- 
ficient to cover their August purchases and the arrangement 
thereafter of a programme of regular loans. 

Colonel House to the President 

July 20, 1917 


I have just received the following cable from Balfour: 

* Communication of the utmost importance and urgency 
with regard to financial position was made to the United 
States Ambassador to-day with request that he telegraph it 
in extenso to State Department. I should be most grateful if 
you could ensure that it receives the personal attention of the 
President and for any assistance you can give as matter is 
really vital. I am sure nothing short of full aid which we ask 
will avoid a catastrophe.' 

I have answered that I would immediately call your atten- 
tion to the urgency of the matter. 

McAdoo intended coming here on Thursday but was de- 
tained. He hopes to come next week 

Affectionately yours 



The hesitation which the United States Treasury dis- 
played in giving immediate and complete satisfaction to the 
Allied appeal was not entirely unnatural. Mr. McAdoo was 
responsible to the American taxpayers and he must be able 
to show that all the funds advanced were for essential ex- 
penditures, without which there was danger that the war 
might be lost. Confusion in the demands of the Allies was 
such as almost to give the appearance of a scramble for 
priority of funds and supplies. Before consenting to embark 


upon a policy that would lead to loans of unprecedented size, 
the Treasury insisted that Allied requisitions, whether for 
money or materials, must be coordinated. 

Mr. McAdoo asked, accordingly, for the creation of some 
sort of interallied finance council, or purchasing board, which 
would certify to him the absolute necessity of what was asked 
and indicate the priority of needs. 

The situation was clearly expressed in a memorandum that 
was drafted at this time by Sir William Wiseman in conjunc- 
tion with Colonel House, the sense of which was approved by 
Lord Northcliffe. 

Wiseman Memorandum on Finance and Supplies 

'The demands for money, shipping, and raw materials 
come from the Allies separately and without reference to one 
another. Each urges that their own particular need is para- 
mount, and no one in America can tell where the next de- 
mand will come from and for how much it will be. The Ad- 
ministration [at Washington] are too far from the war and 
have not sufficient information to judge the merits of these 

'At present, confusion reigns not only in the Administra- 
tion Departments, but in the public mind. There is, on the one 
hand, a feeling that some of the money and material is not 
needed for strictly war purposes, and, on the other hand, 
some genuine alarm is felt that even the resources of the 
United States will not be able to bear the strain. German 
agents at work in the United States have seized upon this 
situation and are using it to the full. Their activities are 
aimed at confusing the issues and delaying the time when the 
full weight and power of America can be brought into the 
war. They are encouraging the idea that it would be better 
to conserve American resources for the protection of America, 
rather than dissipate them in a quarrel with Europe.' 


The necessity for coordinating Allied demands through an 
interallied finance council was earnestly emphasized by 
President Wilson. Sir William was invited to confer with the 
President, who laid stress upon the importance of coordinat- 
ing Allied demands and indicated that his solution was the 
plan suggested by Mr. McAdoo. 

'Wilson urged strongly/ Wiseman reported to House and 
Northcliffe, 'that more information, both as to actual finan- 
cial needs and general policy of the Allies, must be given to 
the United States Government. He pointed out that there 
was much confusion and some competition in the demands of 
the various Allies. Specifically, so far as the British are con- 
cerned, he pointed out that there was no one who could speak 
with sufficient financial authority to discuss the whole situa- 
tion, both financial and political, with the Secretary of the 
Treasury. All these things should be remedied as soon as 

'He was thoroughly in favor of the scheme proposed by 
McAdoo for a council in Paris. This council, composed of 
representatives of the Allies, should determine what was 
needed in the way of supplies and money from America. 
It should also determine the urgency of each requisition 
and give proper priority. I suggested that such a council 
should be composed of the military and naval commanders, 
or their representatives, and that the United States should 
be represented on it. Wilson did not seem to have any ob- 
jection, but thought it was unnecessary for the United States 
to be represented on it until they had their own portion of 
the front to look after and a large force in Europe.' l 

The failure of the Allied Governments to accept and act 
upon Mr. McAdoo's recommendation for an interallied coun- 

1 Another indication that as early as July, 1917, President Wilson ex- 
pected to see a large American expeditionary force in Europe. 


til was doubtless due in part to the fear that the financial 
autonomy of London and Paris might be sacrificed. It was 
also due to the press of affairs in Europe, which left small 
leisure to study the important factors that underlay Amer- 
ica's relations with the Allies. Both Northclifte and Tardieu 
worked to impress upon their Governments the necessity of 
meeting the American demand for a general system of co- 
ordination in matters of finance and supply, but without im- 
mediate results. 

M. Tardieu and the deputy commissioner for Franco- 
American affairs, M. de Billy, came to Magnolia on various 
occasions to discuss with Colonel House ways and means of 
creating a complete interallied organization. They realized 
clearly the unfortunate effects of British delay in arranging 
for a purchasing organization to take the place of that which 
had been carried on by J. P. Morgan and Company, as well 
as the further confusion in American industry that resulted 
upon our entrance into the war, with the consequent danger 
of increase in prices. They recognized equally the fact that 
the Allies had quite as much to gain as the United States 
from a system of general coordination. 

Tardieu Memorandum on Finance and Supplies 

'The old organization has disappeared and the new one has 
not been set up as yet. Whence a general condition of un- 
certainty concerning prices as well as terms of delivery. . . . 

' Supplying the Allies with considerable advances of money, 
the United States may properly ask to be assured that money 
so advanced is actually and fully devoted to war needs. 

'The Allies, working in cooperation with the United States 
may also properly ask that, as regards the negotiating of 
their orders, they should be protected as to prices against 
any exaggerated claims from the producers. . . . 

'Assurances should be given to the American Government 


that the orders of the Allies are not such as to hamper the 
industries which are necessary to the United States. 

* Assurances should be given to the Allies that the carrying 
out of the orders in the United States shall not be hampered 
or delayed by orders from the American Government/ 

Tardieu's solution was the utilization of existing inter- 
allied bureaus, which should be developed so as to give the 
American Government complete information as to the es- 
sential demands of the Allies. It would be necessary for the 
American Government to take complete control of American 
industry. The interallied conference * would provide the 
Government of the United States with a basis for the in- 
dustrial and financial control over all orders placed in the 

United States The United States would acquire a deep 

and detailed knowledge of the needs and specifications of the 
Allies, and as soon as their own organization was completed, 
they would be in a position to undertake the whole direction 
of American war industries and could substitute their own 
organization without a break for the former purchasing 
machinery of the Allies ' l 

Towards the end of July, feeling confident of the support 
of M. Tardieu and of Northcliffe, Mr. McAdoo addressed a 
formal memorandum to the Allied Commissioners, in which 
he declared the necessity of escaping from existing confusion 
by the creation of an organization that would correlate de- 
mands upon the United States and furnish some basis for 
indicating priority of needs. United States officials, he stated, 
were being forced to decide questions of which they had little 
first-hand knowledge. The Allies should first get together, 
work out a programme deciding the proper needs of each, 

1 The general principles of M. Tardieu's plan were finally followed so as 
to meet the necessities of the problem. Control over American industry 
was ultimately taken by the President and exercised through the War 
Industries Board; interallied councils were set up to determine the needs 
of the Allies and the priorities of their demands. 


and present it to our Government as a whole. In this way 
there would be no necessity for continual applications by 
each country for comparatively small amounts and our Gov- 
ernment would be relieved from the decision as to which ap- 
plication was the most vital. 

A conference of Allied representatives met in Paris to dis- 
cuss the McAdoo memorandum, and there drafted a plan 
which in its main lines met the desires of the United States. 
But ratification of this scheme by the Allied Governments 
was refused for the moment, largely because of their objec- 
tion to the extent of the powers which it would confer upon 
the commissioners. The creation of the interallied council on 
finances and purchases was thus postponed. 


This delay in the ratification of Mr. McAdoo's plan natu- 
rally carried with it an element of uncertainty in the discus- 
sions over the regular advancement of American funds to the 
Allies. The anxiety of the latter was intense. Because of his 
relations with the Secretary of the Treasury on the one hand 
and with the Allied Commissioners on the other, Colonel 
House was constantly invited to place the Allied point of 
view before the Government. On July 23 he wrote to North- 
cliff e : * I am doing everything I can to help solve this difficult 
problem and I hope an understanding may soon be reached.' 
He urged upon Mr. McAdoo that, while waiting for the es- 
tablishment of interallied coordination, it was impossible to 
refuse the requests of the Allies for immediate advances. It 
was with obvious satisfaction that, on July 24, Northcliffe 
cabled to Mr. Bonar Law that Mr. McAdoo had gone up to 
Magnolia to see the Colonel, and that it was likely that the 
advance for August would be made. So it proved and the 
crisis of the moment was tided over. At the same time, at 
House's suggestion, Wiseman was sent to London to explain 
the necessity for closer coordination. President Wilson and 


Northcliffe commissioned him to urge that a financier in a 
high political position be sent to the United States and to in- 
sist upon the necessity of the interallied council on finances 
and purchases. 

Sir William Wiseman to Colonel House 


LONDON, August 3,1917 

I have just had a long conference with Mr. Balfour. He 
says your help in the whole situation and particularly in the 
recent difficulty was the factor which saved a very real dis- 
aster. He is intensely grateful to you and anxious to use all 
his influence to do anything to improve and facilitate rela- 
tions between the two Governments. 

I explained the need of the fullest information and the 
frankest exchange of views. 


Colonel House to the President 

August 10, 1917 


... I talked the financial situation out with McAdoo when 
he was here Tuesday. I think it can be satisfactorily ad- 
justed. Northcliffe comes for to-morrow and Sunday, and I 
will be able to see how nearly the English position coincides 
with McAdoo's. . . .* 

I cautioned McAdoo to give, when he had to give, with a 
glad hand, for in any other way we will lose both money and 
good will. As long as we have money to lend, those wishing 
to borrow will be agreeable, but when the bottom of the barrel 
is reached, it may be a different story. It is their turn now to 

1 ' I am spending the next four days with Colonel House, through whom 
I have been able to effect much more good than I have achieved at Wash- 
ington.' Northcliffe to Bonar Law, August 10, 1917. 


be pleasant later it will be ours in order to collect what 
they owe. 

I remember, during one of the old-time panics, a very rich 
man was asked by a friend of mine whether he was terribly 
worried. He replied, 'No, I am not at all worried, but the 
banks that are carrying me are.'. . . 

Affectionately yours 


Colonel House's desire that the financial advances of the 
United States should be generous ought not to be taken to 
mean that he was merely interested in helping the Allies. He 
did not fail to impress upon them the absolute necessity of 
falling in with Mr. McAdoo's plan for an interallied council 
and the coordination of demands, if adequate American as- 
sistance was to be expected. The details of the plan might 
have to be altered to meet the objections of London and 
Paris, but the principle was essential to American financial 

Lord Northcliffe to Mr. Lloyd George 


NEW YORK, August 15, 1917 

House quite realises the force of our objections to the pro- 
posed powers of the interallied conference, but he urged that 
an endorsement of this kind was essential for McAdoo's 
political position. McAdoo has many enemies and is about 
to go to Congress for permission to issue another immense 
loan. He must be fortified by expert military opinion from 
Europe that these vast loans are necessary to victory. I 
argued the matter at considerable length. 

Eventually Colonel House, who rarely raises his voice, said 
with much emphasis: * McAdoo will insist upon the inter- 
allied council/. . . Things were going smoothly and there 
were remarkably few strikes or conscription riots. But there 


was an ugly spirit in Congress and McAdoo must be able to 

prove that no money is being wrongfully used In view of 

the popular underestimation of Great Britain's efforts, said 
Colonel House, it was most difficult for McAdoo to explain 
the immense appropriations for Great Britain. 


Lord Northcliffe to Sir William Wiseman 


NEW YORK, August 16, 1917 

The monthly money question seems easier, but we shall 
have an anxious winter in regard to finance. McAdoo is being 
accused in some newspapers of spending the nation's money 
like a drunken sailor. He was five hours with House last 
week. House was very emphatic about the interallied con- 
ference It is absolutely necessary to McAdoo to have 

this expert endorsement of the money that is allocated to the 
Allies, he added. 


A few weeks later he reemphasized, in a cable to the Prime 
Minister, the close relation between the difficulties of this 
problem and public opinion: * House, who always sees three 
months ahead/ he wrote, * obviously foresaw the present 
agitation in the mind of the public here as to the immense 
sums required by the Allies, and especially by England. The 
current newspapers are giving much space to the subject of 
the loans to the Allies, particularly to England/ 

The difficulties of the financial problem were appreciated 
quite as keenly by the French Commissioner. Tardieu later 
wrote of them: 

* Without means of payment in dollars ... the Allies would 
have been beaten before the end of 1917. America's entry 
into the war saved them. Before the American soldier, the 


American dollar turned the tide For Europe, what a 

stream of gold! But its approaches were crowded. Banker 
of her Allies since 1914, England came first. France, who had 
suffered more than England, wanted to be served equally 
well. The others pressed behind, a clamouring crowd whose 
enormous estimates frightened the Treasury officials As- 
sociated, but not Allied, the United States had authorized its 
Secretary of the Treasury to grant advances to Europe, but 
not to enter into definite undertakings. There were to be no 
bilateral negotiations, no general agreements, no mutual 
stipulations. The United States in financial matters was to 
play the part of distributor and arbitrator. That was to be 
its financial policy. 

'This independent policy was justified and strengthened 
by the unbridled competition of the borrowers, by their ever- 
outstretched hands, by the astuteness of their ever-increasing 
demands. American mistrust increased when . . . both Lon- 
don and Paris, on the ground of their financial autonomy, 
stubbornly opposed the American proposal for an interallied 
finance board. . . . Every day my Government called upon 
me to obtain regular agreements, which it considered indis- 
pensable. Every day the Treasury told me, as it told my 
colleagues, that it did not intend to enter into any binding 
agreements. The American Congress had limited the object, 
the amount, the form of financial assistance. No one could 
complain that this assistance was not forthcoming. But no 
one had the right to count upon it.' l 

To mitigate the consequences of the delay in the formation 
of an interallied economic council, Lord Northcliffe urged the 
appointment of a British official of high political station, as 
commissioner qualified to settle with the American Govern- 
ment the funds that might be advanced at regular intervals. 

1 Tardieu, France and America, 227-29. 


Early in the summer he had discussed possibilities with 
Colonel House and reached the conclusion that Viscount 
Reading, Lord Chief Justice, would be the ideal choice. 
Lord Reading was a close friend of Mr. Lloyd George and a 
financial expert who had created the happiest impression in 
Washington during the autumn of 1915. He was highly 
placed in the political sense and would speak with full 
authority. 1 ' Before asking for Reading,' wrote House, 'it 
was agreed that I should see McAdoo and discuss it with 

The Secretary of the Treasury, like Mr. Wilson, had al- 
ready urged that a financial commissioner be sent to Wash- 
ington, and he warmly approved the suggestion of Lord 
Reading. The only question was whether the British Govern- 
ment would appreciate the need of appointing so high an 
official, who might be spared from London only with diffi- 
culty. Lord Northcliffe delegated Wiseman, then in London, 
to impress upon the War Cabinet the critical nature of the 
situation in the United States. 

'There is a very urgent need,' Wiseman reported of Ameri- 
can conditions, 'for an official of the highest standing to pro- 
ceed to Washington and discuss with Mr. McAdoo financial 
problems. He should be a man who can not only grasp the 
strictly financial problems, but who will also understand the 
political situation in America and can discuss with the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury the political problems involved in the 
raising of immense loans in the States. The mistake in the 
past has been to send purely financial experts who have had 
but little knowledge of, or patience with, the serious political 
difficulties which face the Administration in Washington.' 

1 So far back as February, 1916, House had thought of Lord Reading as 
an ideal British envoy. See Intimate Papers of Colonel House, n, 196. 


Sir William Wiseman to Colonel House 


LONDON, August 12, 1917 
I have now seen most people of importance including the 

King, Premier, Chancellor of the Exchequer The British 

Government understands, though it is reluctant to admit, 
the most powerful position of the United States. The British 
Government trusts the President and will give him all infor- 
mation willingly, but certainly did not understand the neces- 
sity of keeping him frankly informed of their weakness as well 

as strength 



LONDON, August 20, 1917 

I believe I have succeeded in making the Cabinet appreci- 
ate the vital importance of the United States in the present 
situation, and the necessity for very frank and cordial coopera- 
tion between the Governments; but owing to enormous pres- 
sure of urgent affairs on the Government it takes considera- 
ble time to get action taken 


The British may have appreciated the need of close co- 
operation with the United States, but they continued to 
hesitate before deciding to send another representative. 
Perhaps they feared lest their organization in America might 
become still further complicated. Northcliffe exercised all his 
persuasive powers and sent frequent cables to the different 
members of the War Cabinet, insisting that the situation 
demanded the appointment of a financial commissioner with 
broad political powers. 'I am semi-officially informed that 

delay about Lord Reading is causing irritation House 

insists that a politician should come. 9 


Lord Northcliffe to Colonel House 


WASHINGTON, August 24, 1917 

The Government has once more asked me if it is essential 
that Reading should come. Can I have your yes or no 
through Miller. 


Colonel House to Lord Northcliffe 


August 24, 1917 

Yes, I think it is essential to have Lord Reading or some 
one like him. 


Sir William Wiseman to Lord Northcliffe 


LONDON, August 24, 1917 

Have done my best to persuade Government to send Read- 
ing and this morning Chancellor informed me that he will ask 
him to undertake mission. I do not know Reading personally 
but dare say his sound impartial judgment will help on gen- 
eral questions, besides finance, and on his return will be able 
to give sound advice to the Cabinet. Suggest you cable Read- 
ing urging him to accept and to discuss matter with me. I 
believe his appointment will be another step to better co- 
operation and making Washington real war headquarters. 
Cabinet actually thought Wilson might be persuaded to 
come here. 



Lord Robert Cecil to Colonel House 


LONDON, August 25, 1917 

Balfour is on a holiday and I am acting for him. It is pro- 
posed to ask Lord Reading to go to Washington in connec- 
tion with financial situation. I gather you approve of this 
suggestion and in itself it seems excellent from here, but I 
am afraid lest it should complicate still further our represen- 
tation in United States, unless in fact it was part of some 
general rearrangement. 

It is at this point that I should greatly value your advice. 
A complete understanding between our two countries is of 
such vital importance to both of them and even to the whole 
world that I am venturing to hope you may feel able to tell 
me quite candidly and fully what you think 

What powers should Lord Reading have, and how should 
they be made to fit in with the position of the Ambassador 
and of Northcliffe if he remained? 

I know I have no right to ask you for this service, but I 
also know that whether you feel able to advise me or not you 
will forgive me in view of the vast importance of the interest 
at stake. I realize that you were able to express your views 
very fully in these matters to Mr. Balfour, Drummond, and 
Wiseman, but circumstances have so much changed that I 
have ventured to ask you for a fresh expression of them. 


Sir William Wiseman to Colonel House 


LONDON, August 25, 1917 

We have reached a crisis in our immediate relations with 
the United States Your opinion will be treated in strict- 
est confidence by the War Cabinet. May I not urge upon you 
the great service you will do for the cause by cabling your 


views, whatever they may be, quite fully and frankly to 
Cecil. . . . 


Colonel House to Lord Robert Cecil 


August 26, 1917 

... In my opinion the best temporary solution would be to 
send Lord Reading or some one like him, who has both a 
financial and political outlook, and give him entire authority 
over financial questions, Northcliffe to retain charge of all 
commercial affairs. When Northcliffe feels that he can re- 
turn, Grey might be sent here, and if he cannot accept could 
you not come yourself? What is really needed is some one 
who can dominate and compose the situation and who would 

have the entire confidence of the President Sir William 

Wiseman understands the situation and can give further 

The opinion given is wholly mine and without consultation 
with any one. 


This remarkable interchange of cablegrams illustrates, as 
nothing else could, the kind of service performed by House in 
behalf of President Wilson and the Allies. Sir William Wise- 
man has commented upon it as follows: 

'It is difficult for the chronicler to define, and for the 
reader to appreciate the position and influence of Colonel 
House during the World War. Every now and then, a phrase 
in a cable or letter, or the tone of a despatch, throws striking 
proof a spot-light on a darkened stage. Of such is the 
cable from Lord Robert Cecil. As Acting-Secretary of State 
for Foreign Affairs he speaks directly in the name of the 


British Government when he cables to Colonel House asking 
in effect whether Reading should be sent to Washington, 
whether Northcliffe should remain, and how their duties 
should be defined and made to fit in with those of the Am- 
bassador. A truly remarkable tribute to both the wisdom 
and discretion of Colonel House, that a foreign Government 
should seek his advice upon so important and delicate a 
problem. But only those who know the ways of Chancelleries 
can fully appreciate what it meant for the British Foreign 
Office, with its great tradition, even to discuss so intimate a 
problem with an unofficial statesman of another country. It 
must be added that the Foreign Office in this instance, as in 
many others, accepted Colonel House's advice and acted 
upon it.' 

The request that he undertake the mission, which was im- 
mediately laid before Lord Reading by the British Govern- 
ment, was supported by a long cable of August 26 from 
Northcliffe to him, urging the necessity of accepting it. 
Northcliffe again emphasized: * (1) that the Americans have 
no conception of our sacrifices in men, ships and money: (2) 
that they are as yet unaccustomed to the huge figures of war 
finance. ... I am most anxious that we should get a firm con- 
tract with the United States Government for the regular al- 
location, for the duration of the war, of the monies we re- 
quire.' Without any delay Lord Reading agreed to come. 

Lord Reading to Lord Northcliffe 


LONDON, August 31, 1917 

Much impressed with your telegram. Have arranged to 
leave next week. I am getting information here and will dis- 
cuss with you on arrival. Have seen Wiseman, who will ac- 
company me on voyage. 




At almost the same moment that the British Government 
decided to send over Lord Reading with wide authority with 
which to meet the problems of finance and supply, an ar- 
rangement was made at Washington by which the purchas- 
ing necessities of the Allies were to be cared for by a commis- 
sion, created to take over the functions formerly exercised 
for the British Government by J. P. Morgan and Company. 
The official announcement, issued by Secretary McAdoo on 
August 24, was as follows: 

'Formal agreements were signed to-day by the Secretary 
of the Treasury, with the approval of the President, on be- 
half of the United States, and by the representatives of Great 
Britain, France, and Russia for the creation of a commission 
with headquarters at Washington, through which all pur- 
chases made by those Governments in the United States shall 
proceed. It is expected that similar agreements will be signed 
with representatives of other allied Governments within the 
next few days. 

'The agreements name Bernard M. Baruch, Robert S. 
Lovett, and Robert S. Brookings as the Commission. These 
gentlemen are also members of the recently created War 
Industries Board of the Council of National Defense, and will 
thereby be able thoroughly to coordinate the purchases of 
the United States Government with the purchases of the 
Allied Powers. 

* It is believed that these arrangements will result in a more 
effective use of the combined resources of the United States 
and foreign Governments in the prosecution of the war.' 

Northcliffe cabled to London on August 24, commenting 
upon the satisfaction of the American Administration, which 
had evidently chafed under the delays in arranging the pur- 
chasing agreement: * Government greatly pleased, and as a 



result expressed intention of helping us in every way possi- 
ble/ And on the following day to the Chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer: * It will probably surprise you to know that the pens 
with which the agreement was signed are to be engraved and 

This commission, of course, did not in any way meet the 
request of Mr. McAdoo for an interallied council for the 
correlation of Allied demands, but it went far towards organ- 
izing effective machinery for the payment for supplies pur- 
chased by the Allies in this country. 1 It obtained offers at 
the best current prices, submitted them to the accredited 
representatives of the Allies, and finally oversaw and directed 
the purchases made, the Allied representatives themselves 
determining technical details, such as contracts and inspec- 

The purchasing agreement of August was an essential im- 
provement in mechanism, which greatly facilitated all buy- 
ing operations on the part of the Allies and led to unques- 
tionable economies. It did not touch the major problems of 
interallied finance and supply which, as the summer closed, 
still remained unsettled. But the process of adjustment was 
at least in course of development. 

The arrival of the Reading Mission early in September 
proved to be a step of the first significance in the general co- 
ordination of Allied problems. House was clearly delighted. 
' There is no one/ he wrote, 'so well equipped for the work in 
hand. A great jurist, he possesses a knowledge of finance 
which is at the moment essential if order is to be brought 
out of the present chaos. He has a fine diplomatic touch 
which will ensure against unnecessary friction. The jangled 
nerves of many high-strung individuals will be soothed by 
this imperturbable negotiator. He has also the confidence 
of the British Prime Minister as perhaps no other man has, 

1 'We cannot replace Stettinius, who is a genius . . .' Northcliffe to Mr. 
Balfour, August 29, 1917. 


and that in itself is a compelling reason for his appointment 
on such a mission/ 

The Reading Mission paved the way for the creation of the 
interallied finance council so insistently demanded by Mr. 
McAdoo. It led equally to the decision to send an American 
War Mission to Europe, the object of which was to secure 
not merely a working organization in economic and military 
affairs, but also agreement upon a unified programme of war 


My thought is to give the German liberals every possible encouragement. 

Colonel House's Diary, May 19, 1917 


No less a statesman than Bismarck averred that the most 
important elements in politics, upon which the fate of em- 
pires might turn, were the * imponderables/ This was su- 
premely true of the World War, in which moral forces 
combined with economic to break down the spirit of the 
peoples of the Central Empires behind the fighting fronts. 
They are easy to trace although difficult to evaluate; his- 
torians will always differ as to the relative influence of mili- 
tary, economic, and moral factors upon the final result. But 
it is certain that while the final surrender was the direct 
result of defeat in the field of battle and the ravaging effects 
of the Allied blockade, it was hastened by the spirit of revolt 
against the old imperial system. 

Sir William Wiseman drafted the following memorandum 
on Wilson's war policy, after the lapse of a decade. 

Wiseman Memorandum on Wilsonian War Policy 

February 1, 1928 

* It might appear to the reader of the Intimate Papers that 
President Wilson and Colonel House devoted most of their 
time to propaganda, and not to the active conduct of the 
war. This is not true. It is natural that the Intimate Papers 
should dwell more on those questions which are of continuing 
interest rather than the problems of war supplies and organi- 
zation, which were technical and not of any particular inter- 
est now, excepting as showing the gigantic efforts that were 


' It was undoubtedly true that from the first outbreak of 
the Great War both President Wilson and Colonel House 
were more interested in the causes and purposes of the war 
and means to prevent another such catastrophe, rather than 
in the actual military operations. This was also true after 
the United States entered the war, and yet both men realized 
the need for strenuous and immediate effort on the part of 
their country, and devoted themselves to the uncongenial 
task of making war with all the energy of mind and body 
that they possessed. Wilson (who always said that he had a 
"one-track" mind) felt that he could not allow his thoughts 
to dwell on the fascinating problem of the League of Nations 
while he was responsible for the American war effort, and he 
deliberately excluded it from his mind and devoted himself 
to what he described as "knocking the Kaiser off his perch," 
making, as he always did, a very deliberate distinction be- 
tween war on Prussian militarism and the German people 
themselves, with whom he felt he had no quarrel. It was 
during this time that he asked Colonel House, who he 
thought could properly devote some of his time to these 
questions, to study particularly the Covenant for the 
League, and also to develop propaganda destined to show 
the true war aims of the United States and associated 
powers, and particularly to encourage the liberal elements 
in all countries to realize that it was a war of liberation; 
also to seek means of getting this thought to the German 

' One of the greatest services Wilson rendered to the Allied 
cause was his appeal to the liberal-minded people of all 
countries, who naturally recoiled from the horror of war. 
Wilson made them feel it was a necessary, although terrible, 
undertaking; and there is no doubt that there would have 
been more trouble among the so-called pacifists had it not 
been for the Wilson influence. The vital effect of his speeches 
and propaganda in Germany have been fully recognized by 


German writers, and culminated in the German request for 
an armistice based on the "Fourteen Points.' 

99 9 

From the moment in which the United States entered the 
war, President Wilson adopted the principle of undying hos- 
tility to the imperial regime and of friendship to the German 
people. * We have no quarrel,' he said in his speech of April 2, 
1917, * with the German people. We have no feeling towards 
them but one of sympathy and friendship.' He hammered 
constantly upon the note that the war was one of liberation 
for Germany, and that the German people might have peace 
so soon as they renounced their * imperial masters.' German 
leaders declared that his efforts to separate German people 
from German Government were as useless as * biting on 
granite.' In the United States and in Entente countries 
there was bitter criticism of his attempt to exculpate the 
German people. Historians of the future will doubtless ques- 
tion the truth of his thesis that the German people had been 
dragged unwillingly by their chiefs into a course which they 
abhorred. Wilson's political justification lies in the fact 
that in the end, their resolution worn away, the Germans 
abjured their old political system and surrendered upon the 
basis of his demands. 

The policy of driving a wedge between Government and 
people was nothing new. The Allies of 1814, in their invasion 
of France, began with a proclamation of unending war upon 
Napoleon and peace to the French people. During the World 
War the Germans themselves constantly attempted to stimu- 
late Socialist feeling in the Entente countries against the 
Governments; Steed of the Times and others who understood 
conditions in the Central Empires insisted that the shortest 
way to winning the war was through effective encouragement 
of the disaffected subject nationalities of the Hapsburg Em- 
pire. The possibility of appealing to the German Social 
Democrats against Prussian imperialism had been suggested 


truth into Germany in order to wage war against the Prus- 
sian autocracy from within as well as from without. I hope 
you also will lend your great influence in the same direc- 
tion. . . . 

Your very sincere 


During the course of the spring it had become clear that 
some sort of a restatement of war aims by the Entente was 
desirable and perhaps necessary, if revolutionary Russia 
were to be kept in the alliance. The Provisional Government 
formed in March, which still supported Allied war aims as 
expressed in the secret treaties, had been re-formed and the 
Social Democrat, Kerensky, brought into control. He hated 
Germany and was loyal to the old alliance, but both by con- 
viction and by pressure from anti-war groups in Russia, he 
was compelled to disavow all imperialist war purposes. The 
new policy was summed up in the phrase, imported from 
German Socialism, 'Peace without annexations or indem- 
nities, on the basis of the rights of nations to decide their 
own destiny/ The response of the Entente Powers, as ex- 
pressed in the speeches of their leading statesmen as well as 
in official notes sent to Petrograd, seemed evasive and did 
not satisfy the Russians. It was easier for President Wilson, 
whose hands were tied by no promises of territorial annexa- 
tions, to meet the new Russian attitude. He thus found an 
opportunity to express sympathy with the radical Petrograd 
Government and at the same time to throw out a line to the 
German liberals. On May 26 he addressed a note to the 
Russian Government as follows: 

'Wrongs must first be righted, and then adequate safe- 
guards must be created to prevent their being committed 
again But they must follow a principle, and that prin- 
ciple is plain. No people must be forced under sovereignty 


under which it does not wish to live. No territory must 
change hands except for the purpose of securing those who 
inhabit it a fair chance of life and liberty. No indemnities 
must be insisted on except those that constitute payment 
for manifest wrongs done. No readjustments of power must 
be made except such as will tend to secure the future peace 
of the world and the future welfare and happiness of its 

In the mean time President Wilson, whose time and atten- 
tion were naturally taken up with all the problems connected 
with placing the country upon a war footing, commissioned 
House to make a special study of the German situation and 
advise him as to the proper moment for a public statement 
of American policy and what lines it should follow. House 
was sent copies of all telegrams coming from Copenhagen and 
Berne, the two chief sources of information on Germany and 

Symptoms of discontent were evident in the Central 
Powers. Austria was war-weary and had already started 
secret peace conversations; the Hapsburg Monarchy faced 
the expressed discontent of her subject peoples, which threat- 
ened to become translated from debates in the recently con- 
voked Reichsrath into open revolt. The Minister for Foreign 
Affairs, Czernin, was anxiously searching out possible paths 
to peace and talked of liberal reforms. In Germany he found 
an ally in the restless intriguer, Erzberger, a clever albeit un- 
stable figure, who promised that the Reichstag would fly the 
banner of democracy and peace in a revolt against the mili- 
tarists and imperial bureaucrats. At no time were the latter 
in serious danger of losing control. Nevertheless it seemed 
to Colonel House, who was kept well informed of the liberal 
ferment in Germany and of the increasing demand for peace, 
that the movement might well be fostered by help from out- 


truth into Germany in order to wage war against the Prus- 
sian autocracy from within as well as from without. I hope 
you also will lend your great influence in the same direc- 
tion. . . . 

Your very sincere 


During the course of the spring it had become clear that 
some sort of a restatement of war aims by the Entente was 
desirable and perhaps necessary, if revolutionary Russia 
were to be kept in the alliance. The Provisional Government 
formed in March, which still supported Allied war aims as 
expressed in the secret treaties, had been re-formed and the 
Social Democrat, Kerensky, brought into control He hated 
Germany and was loyal to the old alliance, but both by con- 
viction and by pressure from anti-war groups in Russia, he 
was compelled to disavow all imperialist war purposes. The 
new policy was summed up in the phrase, imported from 
German Socialism, 'Peace without annexations or indem- 
nities, on the basis of the rights of nations to decide their 
own destiny/ The response of the Entente Powers, as ex- 
pressed in the speeches of their leading statesmen as well as 
in official notes sent to Petrograd, seemed evasive and did 
not satisfy the Russians. It was easier for President Wilson, 
whose hands were tied by no promises of territorial annexa- 
tions, to meet the new Russian attitude. He thus found an 
opportunity to express sympathy with the radical Petrograd 
Government and at the same time to throw out a line to the 
German liberals. On May 26 he addressed a note to the 
Russian Government as follows: 

'Wrongs must first be righted, and then adequate safe- 
guards must be created to prevent their being committed 
again But they must follow a principle, and that prin- 
ciple is plain. No people must be forced under sovereignty 


under which it does not wish to live. No territory must 
change hands except for the purpose of securing those who 
inhabit it a fair chance of life and liberty. No indemnities 
must be insisted on except those that constitute payment 
for manifest wrongs done. No readjustments of power must 
be made except such as will tend to secure the future peace 
of the world and the future welfare and happiness of its 

In the mean time President Wilson, whose time and atten- 
tion were naturally taken up with all the problems connected 
with placing the country upon a war footing, commissioned 
House to make a special study of the German situation and 
advise him as to the proper moment for a public statement 
of American policy and what lines it should follow. House 
was sent copies of all telegrams coming from Copenhagen and 
Berne, the two chief sources of information on Germany and 

Symptoms of discontent were evident in the Central 
Powers. Austria was war-weary and had already started 
secret peace conversations; the Hapsburg Monarchy faced 
the expressed discontent of her subject peoples, which threat- 
ened to become translated from debates in the recently con- 
voked Reichsrath into open revolt. The Minister for Foreign 
Affairs, Czernin, was anxiously searching out possible paths 
to peace and talked of liberal reforms. In Germany he found 
an ally in the restless intriguer, Erzberger, a clever albeit un- 
stable figure, who promised that the Reichstag would fly the 
banner of democracy and peace in a revolt against the mili- 
tarists and imperial bureaucrats. At no time were the latter 
in serious danger of losing control. Nevertheless it seemed 
to Colonel House, who was kept well informed of the liberal 
ferment in Germany and of the increasing demand for peace, 
that the movement might well be fostered by help from out- 


'May 19, 1917: The cables coming for me through the 
State Department from our Minister at Copenhagen, which 
are parts of the diary, show that a large element in Germany 
is now working for democracy. If it is true, as these de- 
spatches indicate, that Bernstorff is leading this movement, 
I have great hopes for its success, for Bernstorff is much 
cleverer than either the Chancellor or Zimmermann, who 
seem to be standing in the way. Bernstorff has been away 
from Germany long enough to catch the drift of world 
opinion, and he sees that eventually democracy must come 
to even autocratic Germany, and he evidently desires to 
become its sponsor and the recipient of its favors. 

'My thought is to give the German liberals every possible 
encouragement so they can tell the German people that 
"here is your immediate chance for peace because the offer 
comes from your enemies, who will treat with you at any 
time you are in condition to express your thoughts through 
a representative government. On the other hand, the present 
government is offering you peace through conquest, which 
of necessity has in it all the elements of chance and cannot 
be relied upon."' 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, May 30, 1917 


It is, I think, evident that the German military clique have 
no intention of making peace upon any other basis than 
that of conquest 

The Kaiser and his civil government are taking the gam- 
bler's chance. If they are able to hold what they have, then 
the German liberals can be defied, for the mass of the Ger- 
man people will be satisfied with the outcome of the war. 

If, on the other hand, military reverses come, the Kaiser 
and his ministers will lean towards the liberals and give Ger- 
many a government responsive to the people. In the mear 


time, they will give no terms because they hope to hold what 
they have seized, and if their intentions were known, there 
would be near revolution in Germany because a majority of 
the people want peace even if it should be without conquest. 

The pacifists in this country, in England and in Russia, 
are demanding a statement of terms by the Allies which shall 
declare against indemnities or territorial encroachments. 
They believe, and are being told, that Germany is willing for 
peace on these terms. 

It seems to me important that the truth be brought out, 
so that every one, both in and out of Germany, may know 
what the issue is. I hope you will think it advisable to take 
some early occasion to do this. Unless you lead and direct 
the liberal Allied thought, it will not be done. 

Such utterances as those recently made by X and Y [Brit- 
ish and French statesmen] play directly into the hands of the 
German imperialists. There seems to be no intelligent or 
coordinate direction of Allied policy. Imperial Germany 
should be broken down within as well as from without. The 
German liberals justly complain that they not only have had 
no help but that their cause is constantly hurt by the states- 
men and press of the Allied countries. 

Affectionately yours 


Wilson responded enthusiastically, averring that House's 
letter 'chimed exactly 5 with his own thoughts. *I wish you 
would follow it up,* he wrote, * with advice on these points' : 
When should he give the address? How could he express the 
point of view of the American Government without seeming 
to contradict the British and French statesmen who made 
no distinction between German people and Government? 
He added that he would like to say: in substance just what 
you say in your letter. . . . You are in closer touch with what 
is being said than we are here and could form a much safer 


and surer judgment than I could on how the necessary 
things ought to be said. 1 

To this Colonel House replied, having his various talks 
with Drummond and Balfour in mind, that there would be 
no difficulty with the British. As to the date of delivery, he 
urged that it be at once. 

Colonel House to the President 

June 5, 1917 


. . . June 14th Flag Day I think would do if you will 
arrange for wide publicity. I would get the world on tiptoe 
beforehand, and then arrange to have what you say cabled 
in ungarbled form to the ends of the earth. You have come 
to be the spokesman for Democracy, as indeed the Kaiser is 
the spokesman for Autocracy. However, I would caution 
against mentioning him. He is nearly as unimportant as the 
Tsar was before he was dethroned both merely represent- 
ative of systems. 

It will vastly accelerate liberalism in Germany to ignore 
the Kaiser, and let the German people work out their own 

I would advise care in phraseology so that neither France 
nor Italy may see their respective hopes for Alsace and 
Lorraine and the Trentino endangered. England will not be 
offended. She is interested in having German hopes for a 
Middle Europe under Prussian control forever shattered. I 
have talked this out with Balfour. 

A kindly word for Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Tur- 
key would help the purpose in mind. 

The two points that I would bring out are, (1) to make 
clear Imperial Prussia's purpose of conquest, (2) and the 
unwillingness of the democracies to treat with a military 

1 Wilson to House, June 1, 1917. 


autocracy. I would emphasize the thought of a world at 
arms not against the German people but against a Prussian 

If you would send me in advance a copy of the address, I 
think I would know if there was a word or line which might 
offend sensitive friends. If you also think well I can ask Sir 
William Wiseman to come here, so that he may take a word 
of explanation to the Ambassadors of England, France, and 

For your information only, let me say that Balfour has 
given Wiseman his confidence to an unusual degree, and 
they have arranged a private code that can only be unraveled 
by Drummond and themselves. . . . 

Affectionately yours 


Colonel House did not see the President's speech before 
its delivery, which was given as planned, on Flag Day. 
Wilson wrote to him that he had been much delayed in 
getting at the composition of it and did not have a chance to 
let him see it beforehand: I do not think, he added, that 
it contains anything to which our Associates in the war (so 
I will call them) could object. 1 The sentence is important as 
containing an early, perhaps the first, use by Wilson of the 
phrase which described America's status, that of an 'As- 
sociated Power'; also because it indicates the President's 
appreciation of the delicacy of the problem of war aims in 
view of the aspirations of the Entente. 

Both at home and in the Entente countries tremendous 
enthusiasm was evoked by the Flag Day speech. In it the 
President held closely to the two ideas which had been 
agreed upon in the Drummond memorandum: that we were 
fighting the existing German Government and not the Ger- 
man people; that peace was impossible so long as that 

1 Wilson to House, June 15, 1917. 


Government remained in power. Wilson gave the speech, 
as he wrote to House, 'in a downpour of rain to a patient 
audience standing in the wet under dripping umbrellas. 9 

'We know now as clearly as we knew before we were 
ourselves engaged/ said the President, 'that we are not the 
enemies of the German people and that they are not our 
enemies. They did not originate or desire this hideous war 
or wish that we should be drawn into it; and we are vaguely 
conscious that we are fighting their cause, as they will some 
day see it, as well as our own. They are themselves in the 
grip of the same sinister power that has now at last stretched 
its ugly talons out and drawn blood from us.' 

The speech concluded with the warning that a stable 
peace with the military group which controlled Germany 
and, for the moment, southeastern Europe, was out of the 
question. Peace offers from such a source could not be taken 
seriously. There followed the implication that with the 
overthrow of this group, the opportunity for peace might 

4 The military masters under whom Germany is bleeding 
see very clearly to what point Fate has brought them. If 
they fall back or are forced back an inch, their power both 
abroad and at home will fall to pieces like a house of cards. It 
is their power at home they are thinking about now more 
than their power abroad. It is that power which is trembling 
under their very feet; and deep fear has entered their 
hearts. They have but one chance to perpetuate their mili- 
tary power or even their controlling political influence. If 
they can secure peace now with the immense advantages 
still in their hands which they have up to this point 
apparently gained, they will have justified themselves before 
the German people ; they will have gained by force what they 


promised to gain by it: an immense expansion of German 
power, an immense enlargement of German industrial and 
commercial opportunities. Their prestige will be secure, and 
with their prestige their political power. If they fail, their 
people will thrust them aside; a government accountable to 
the people themselves will be set up in Germany as it has 
been in England, in the United States, in France, and in all 

the great countries of the modern time except Germany 

If they succeed, America will fall within the menace. We 
and all the rest of the world must remain armed, as they will 
remain, and must make ready for the next step in their 
aggression; if they fail, the world may unite for peace and 
Germany may be of the union/ 

Colonel House to the President 

June 14, 1917 


I can hardly express the pleasure your speech of to-day 
has given me. It has stirred me more than anything you 
have ever done. For two years or more I have wanted some 
one high up in the Allied Governments to arraign Germany 
as she deserved. You have done it and done it so well that 
she will be centuries freeing herself from the indictment you 

have made 

Your devoted 


'June 14, 1917: The President made his great Flag Day 
speech to-day. My letter to him tells what I think of it. 
As a matter of fact, it only partially tells the story, for I 
think he has done one of those necessary things which as 

yet had not been done well They have attempted it, but 

neither Lloyd George, Grey, Asquith, Briand, Poincar6, nor 
Viviani have done more than scratch the surface. The Presi- 


dent has done it properly, and what he has said will leave a 
scar that will stay for generations. 

'A man in the President's position has the world for an 
audience, and if he says something worth while and says it 
well, it will live forever.' 

Colonel House to the President 

June 15, 1917 


I hope you are seeing the reception your Flag Day speech 
has been given. The . . . Transcript had the enclosed 
[eulogistic] editorial last night. The Boston Herald . . . says 
editorially: * Every American ought to read it and in doing 
so rejoice that we have at the head of the Republic in such a 
crisis as this a man of preeminent capacity for clear and 
convincing statement of public policies/ 

While, of course, you will not want to make another 
speech of this kind soon, yet when it is necessary, what do 
you think of challenging Germany to state her peace terms 
in the open as the other nations have? She should be driven 
into a corner and made to express her willingness to accept 
such a peace as the United States, Russia and even England 
have indicated a willingness to accept, or put herself in the 
position of continuing the war for the purpose of conquest. 

Affectionately yours 


During the succeeding weeks, at the suggestion of the 
President, House worked on plans that might lead the Ger- 
man Government to state its war aims and destroy the 
fable that it was ready for a moderate peace. This seemed 
to the President at the moment more important than a re- 
statement of Allied war aims, such as the Russians and 
Entente pacifists asked for. 


'June 28, 1917: I have another budget of foreign mail. 
Buckler writes concerning conditions in England, and en- 
closes a letter to the President signed by Norman Angell, 
Philip Snowden, Ramsay MacDonald, E. D. Morel, Charles 
H. Buxton, Charles Trevelyan, and several others. I re- 
ceived a copy of this letter some time ago, but did not send 
it to the President. I shall send the original, although I do 
not altogether agree with the purpose of the letter, which is 
to ask the President to demand of the Allies a restatement of 
their peace terms, and to have them made to harmonize with 
the President's January 22nd speech and the Russian state- 
ment of terms. 

* In my opinion, what is needed now is to force Germany 
to give her terms/ 

House also exchanged many letters with Americans of 
German ancestry and of quite different types, for the pur- 
pose of securing knowledge of political conditions in Ger- 
many and discussing methods of impressing upon the 
German liberals the tremendous reserve strength of the 
United States and the impossibility of a peace of reconcilia- 
tion so long as Germany refused to democratize her Govern- 
ment. 1 'I gave X,' wrote House on July 23, 'the thought 
that I have already given to other German-Americans, as 
to the folly of Germany trying to make peace under her 
present form of government. I told X that if I were Ger- 
many's best friend I would advise against it.' Bernard H. 
Ridder brought to House plans to help the liberal movement 
in Germany through pressure from the German-Americans, 
and suggestions as to how best America's war preparations 
might be given publicity in Germany. 'The recent letter of 

1 Paul Warburg to House, May 14, 1917, July 15, 1917, August 4, 
1917. Bernard H. Ridder to House, April 25, 1917, April 27, 1917, 
August 7, 1917, August 31, 1917. For an example of the loyal spirit dis- 
played by Americans of German ancestry, see Otto Kahn, Right above 


the President/ wrote Bidder, * emphasizing his confidence in 
Americans of German ancestry, fell upon grateful ears/ 

Colonel House to the President 

August 9, 1917 


. . . The letter from Bernard Ridder is interesting. I be- 
lieve he is right when he says, 'There is no adequate reali- 
zation in Germany to-day of the enormous preparations 
being made in our country/ 

I believe, furthermore, that where the Allies have fallen 
down is in their lack of publicity work in neutral countries 
and in the Central Powers. 

Northcliffe sent me a letter yesterday from Stanley 
Washburn, 1 in which Washburn said that Germany was 
spending millions in Russia in this way and the Allies were 
doing practically nothing to offset it. 

Bertron 2 writes that 'the only way to hold Russia and 
utilize her enormous latent power effectively is through 
very thorough and extensive publicity. This we have been 
strongly urging upon Washington but, up to the time of our 
departure, nothing definite has been done. The reverses 
that the Russians have had might have been avoided had we 
been able to get to work immediately on our arrival in 
Petrograd with sufficient educational literature to reach the 
army and people/ . . . 

Affectionately yours 


Lord Northcliffe, busied as he was with the problems of 
coordinating supplies, none the less found time to take the 

1 War correspondent, attached for twenty-six months to the Russian 
army, military aide and assistant secretary to the Root Mission to Russia. 

2 S. R. Bertron, prominent New York banker, who was a member of 
the American Mission to Russia under the leadership of Elihu Root, 


most active interest in these plans of propaganda and dis- 
cussed them at length with House. He had already con- 
ceived the ideas which were carried into effect in the follow- 
ing spring, of distributing by airplane, in and behind the 
German lines, great packages of leaflets bearing the double 
message of war on the German imperialists, peace to the 
German liberals. 1 

Lord Northdiffe to Mr. Lloyd George 


NEW YORK, August 15, 1917 

I do not know how far House speaks for the President in 
this matter of propaganda, but in the course of our inter- 
views he referred to it again and again. He said the war was 
being fought without imagination; that where the Germans 
have spent millions on propaganda we have only spent 
thousands, and that ours was poor matter at that. He 
repeated that it is essential to spread in Germany through 
neutral newspapers, by aeroplanes, and by the numerous 
German visitors to be found in Switzerland, Denmark, 
Holland, Sweden, and Norway, news of the immense ex- 
penditures and preparations being made by the United 
States. . . . 

House pointed out that the Allies had been altogether 
outwitted in propaganda [in Russia] and everywhere else. 
If a small portion of the money which had been expended 
in war material had been put into effective propaganda in 
Russia, in neutral countries and in South America, where 
we had allowed the Germans to spread their lies unchecked, 
the war would have nearly reached its conclusion. 


In the course of a discussion with Lord Northcliffe, 
Colonel House put forward the suggestion of a rather daring 
1 Sir Campbell Stuart, Secrets of Crewe House, chapter iv. 


experiment in war publicity, nothing less than an open 
debate on war aims between the New York World and a 
German newspaper of standing. Obviously there was little 
chance of the German Government permitting any German 
paper to accept a challenge. Such a refusal, House argued, 
would in itself help to condemn the German cause and 
weaken the loyalty of the German liberals. If it should be 
accepted, the German Government might be forced to a 
clear statement of war aims. 

Colonel House to Mr. Frank I. Cobb l 

July 15, 1917 


Some weeks ago I asked Sir William Wiseman to suggest 
to you a challenge from the World to the Berliner Tageblatt 
to present in each paper the respective views of the Allies 
and the Central Powers. That is, the World to offer an 
editorial column twice a week in which the German side of 
the controversy might be presented to the American people, 
provided the Tageblatt would give the same space in which 
the American side might be presented for the enlightenment 
of the German people. 

The two papers would at once become a world forum, in 
which all belligerents and neutrals could form some judg- 
ment (1) as to what the quarrel was about and (2) who was 
in the wrong. 

Northcliffe, who is here and to whom I mentioned what I 
had in mind, thinks it conceivable that such a discussion 
might lead to peace. He promises to aid in every way we 
think he can. 

If the plan appeals to you, I hope you will come up and 
talk it out with me, for there are many sides to it, and no 
move should be made until it has been thought through. 

1 Editor of the New York World. 


The German Government would probably decline to permit 
such a discussion, but the refusal would hurt their cause and 
help that of the Allies. Before making any move the Presi- 
dent should approve, and his potential aid be invoked. . . . 

Sincerely yours 


Mr. Frank I. Cobb to Colonel House 

NEW YORK, July 18, 1917 

The World will be glad to take that matter up and carry it 
through, if possible. I cannot get away at present to see you, 
but perhaps we can arrive at some kind of a general under- 
standing by letter. Of course, the thing cannot succeed 
unless we have the full cooperation of both the United 
States and German Governments. 

I am not sure, in my own mind, how the matter could best 
be presented to the Tageblatt whether by direct communi- 
cation or through the good offices of the Swiss Minister. 
What is your own opinion about that? We could prepare a 
formal proposal to the Tageblatt and ask the State Depart- 
ment to have it transmitted by cable or otherwise. If the 
German Government acquiesced, or even permitted the 
Tageblatt to receive the communication, the details could 
then be worked out. 

Such a debate would really amount to a preliminary dis- 
cussion of peace in its ultimate effect and I do not think 
its value could well be overestimated, if it could be done. 
There would be little use in undertaking it, however, un- 
less there were assurances from Germany that our side 
of the case would not be censored, although we might prop- 
erly have a private agreement as to the limits of the de- 

Will you be good enough to let me know your own views 
as to the method of carrying it through? I agree with you 


thoroughly that nothing must be done unless we have the 
plans completely mapped out and agreed upon. 
With sincere regards, 

As ever yours 


Colonel House to the President 

July 19, 1917 


I am enclosing you a copy of another letter from Cobb and 
my reply. 

I have but little hope that the German Government will 
permit such a discussion, but if they do not, their refusal can 
be used in such a way as to make serious trouble for them 
within Germany itself. 

Quick action, of course, is important and I would ap- 
preciate your writing or wiring me your decision. 

I will give the matter my personal attention and arrange 
that nothing is published from our side without the most 
careful consideration. If any question should arise about 
which there is doubt, it will be submitted to you. 

It seems to me we have an idea that may startle the world 
and, conceivably, be of great value. There is an ever- 
increasing distrust by the plain people of secret diplomacy, 
and such a move as this under your sanction would have 
great influence for good. 

Affectionately yours 


P.S. I suggest Northcliffe because of the influence of his 
publications in England, and Tardieu because he is one of 
the most brilliant writers on international subjects in the 


The plan of a public debate, with the tacit approval and 
support of the respective Governments, was startling in its 
novelty. This was popular diplomacy with a vengeance! 
President Wilson found it difficult to consider; he wrote to 
House on July 21 : Frankly, I see some very grave possibili- 
ties of danger. Even admitting that the technical difficul- 
ties involved in asking an enemy state to permit a free 
discussion by a newspaper could be passed, the President 
did not see how it would be possible to keep the hand of the 
Administration concealed. The debate would amount to the 
inauguration of peace parleys, and the Entente Powers were 
by no means in accord with the United States as to the 
principles of the settlement: Our real peace terms, said 
Wilson, those upon which we shall undoubtedly insist, are 
not now acceptable to either France or Italy (leaving Great 
Britain for the moment out of consideration). 

The President asked House to write him again: You may 
have entirely satisfactory replies to make to my objections; 
but I cannot think of them myself. He looked upon it, he 
added, as a * deeply important matter/ l 

Colonel House to Mr. Frank I. Cobb 

July 24, 1917 


I am glad to know that you are trying to work out a 
general plan embracing your theories in the proposed debate 
and that you will send it to me in a few days. 

The President and I are discussing it. He realizes the 
great importance of it; in fact, he is so deeply impressed with 
its importance that he is afraid of it. He thinks it might 
lead us into the discussion of peace terms that would be ex- 
ceedingly dangerous and cause dissension among the Allies. 

I realize this too, but I still think that the danger can be 

1 Wilson to House, July 21, 1917. 


The President also cannot quite see how you can get the 
challenge to the Tageblatt without it being apparent that this 
Government is sanctioning it and, in a way, responsible for 
the debate. 

I am taking it up with the State Department and they 
have promised to try and think a way out. I feel that we 
have something of enormous value if it can be properly used, 
and we must find a way. 

Sincerely yours 


Colonel House to the President 

AugustQ, 1917 


I am enclosing copies of Cobb's challenge to the Tageblatt. 1 
Surely, there could be no objection to putting it in this mild 
form. Will you not advise me what answer to make? 

If this is once started, we could easily get into Germany 
the knowledge of our preparations, as Ridder suggests. 
We could also give the Germans as a whole a sense of secu- 
rity which they do not now feel. The whole military propa- 
ganda in the Central Powers is directed at the fear of dis- 
memberment and economic rule. If the German people 
could be brought to realize that their integrity would be 
better safeguarded by such a peace as we have in mind than 
it would be by the continued reliance upon great armaments, 
the militarists' arguments would break down. 

If we want to win this war it seems to me essential that 
we must do something different from what the Allies have 
done in the past three years. 

Affectionately yours 


1 See appendix to this chapter. 


Despite the attractions of the House-Cobb project, the 
obvious difficulties involved in it seemed too great to those 
in authority and the proposed challenge was never sent. 
President Wilson found himself unconvinced at the end, as 
at the beginning, that the indefinite dangers to which it 
might lead were not greater than the possible advantages. 
He emphasized especially the danger of precipitating open 
discussions on war aims between the United States and the 
Allies at the moment when complete unity of purpose was 
all-important; since this was precisely the point that 
House had stressed at the time of the Balfour Mission, he 
could find no adequate answer to the President's objections. 
Wilson was acutely conscious of the difference between the 
war aims of the United States and those of the Allies: We 
cannot force them [the Allies] now, he had written to 
House, and any attempt to speak for them or to our com- 
mon mind would bring in disagreements which would 
inevitably come to the surface in public. 1 Some other means 
must be found of compelling Germany to state her war 

Thus the proposal for an open debate was quietly dropped 
into the limbo of untried experiments. House's disappoint- 
ment would doubtless have been more keen, were it not that 
at this very moment a new opportunity for inspiring a dis- 
cussion of war aims was given to President Wilson by the 
Pope's proposal of peace negotiations. 

Mr. Frank I. Cobb to Colonel House 

NEW YORK, August 8, 1917 

I have made a rough draft of the challenge for The Tageblatt and a re- 
quest to the State Department. It seemed to me better that the State 
Department request be made perfunctory and formal without assuming 
that the Government was concerned in any way with the matter, but had 
merely been asked to transmit it, as it is asked to transmit a thousand 

1 Wilson to House, July 21, 1917. 


other things. That might be much more discreet than trying to arrange 
an alibi. 

Please make any changes whatever that you deem wise in the draft of 
both these communications. 

Sincerely yours 



NEW YORK, August 8, 1917 
Editor, The Tageblatt, 

It is no less important, in the stress of war than in the controversies of 
peace, that there should be a common agreement as to the issues involved, 
whatever differences there may be as to the relation of these issues to the 
aims and objects of government. No such agreement exists as between 
the German people and the American people. They are at war, but 
Americans are unable to understand why the German Government 
adopted a line of policy which forced the United States into the war; nor 
do the German people understand why the American people should have 
considered these German policies casus belli. 

Believing that a frank discussion of the issues is one of the great duties 
that journalism owes to the general welfare, The World hereby challenges 
The Tageblatt to a full and free debate on the questions that have divided 
the United States and Germany, each newspaper to print the case pre- 
sented by the other, as well as its own case, under arrangements to be 
agreed upon later in respect to detail. It seems to The World that such a 
debate might have a permanent value in the way of clarifying the issues 
and crystallizing public sentiment in the two countries. 

Trusting that it will seem expedient for The Tageblatt to accept this 
challenge in the spirit in which it is offered. 

Most respectfully 

The New York World 


We cannot take the word of the present rulers of Germany as a guarantee 

of anything that is to endure 

President Wilson's reply to the Pope, August 29, 1917 

DURING the early summer the movement for a peace of 
compromise had gone far in Austria and in certain German 
circles; it was stimulated by the Russian suggestion of a 
peace without annexations or indemnities. The German 
military leaders were hostile to any consideration of peace. 
'Ludendorff,' wrote Czernin, Foreign Minister of Austria- 
Hungary, 'is exactly like the statesmen of France and Eng- 
land; none of them wishes to compromise, they only look 
for victory.' In Austria, however, the need of an early peace 
had been realized by Czernin for some months. ' I am never- 
theless quite convinced/ he wrote on April 2, 'that another 
winter campaign would be absolutely out of the question; in 
other words, that in the late summer or in the autumn an 
end must be put to the war at all costs/ l 

The Austrian Emperor had already started secret negotia- 
tions with the Entente through Prince Sixte of Bourbon, 
brother of the Empress and an officer in the Belgian army. 
But they lagged and finally fell through, partly because the 
Italians would hear of no concessions sufficient to attract 
Austria towards a separate peace, partly because Czernin 
intended to use the negotiations as a means to a general 
peace including Germany, and the Allies were determined 
not to compromise with an undefeated Germany. Nor would 
the German military group consider peace without an in- 
crease of territory ; Ludendorff made it plain that he regarded 

1 Czernin, In the World War, 22, 164. 


the war as lost if Germany did not emerge from it with 
enhanced power. 

'The future will show/ wrote Czernin, 'what superhuman 
efforts we have made to induce Germany to give way. That 
all proved fruitless was not the fault of the German people, 
nor was it, in my opinion, the fault of the German Emperor, 
but that of the leaders of the German military party, which 
had attained such enormous power in the country. Every 
one in Wilhelmstrasse, from Bethmann to Kiihlmann, 
wanted peace; but they could not get it simply because the 
military party got rid of every one who ventured to act other- 
wise than as they wished.' l 

Members of the German Reichstag began to doubt the 
possibility of complete victory. Matthias Erzberger, a 
leader of the Center Party who was in touch with Czernin 
and aware of the latter's memorandum upon the necessity of 
peace, was able to form something of a Woe, opposed to the 
control of the military group and advocating a peace of com- 
promise. On July 19, under his management, a majority of 
the Reichstag voted a resolution declaring that 'the Reich- 
stag strives for a peace of understanding and the permanent 
reconciliation of the peoples. With such a peace forced 
acquisitions of territory and political, economic, or financial 
oppressions are inconsistent.' The resolution was carried by 
212 votes to 126. 

This revolt against military influence proved abortive, 
despite the hopes it aroused abroad. The parliamentary 
crisis made necessary the resignation of the Chancellor, 
Bethmann, who had lost the confidence of all groups; but his 
successor, Michaelis, a capable administrator without parlia- 
mentary experience, refused to accept the control of the 
Reichstag and so far as a peace of compromise was concerned 

1 Czernin, op. cit., 362. 


became almost as determined as Ludendorff, if less unequiv- 
ocal. The parliamentary revolution proved a fiasco and the 
Reichstag resolution c a mere pious opinion/ l The position 
of those in Germany who advocated a compromise peace 
was weakened thereby, as it was by the refusal of the 
Entente to consider the Reichstag overtures in a conciliatory 

It was obvious, nevertheless, that a strong current was 
running towards peace in Germany, although it did not carry 
with it the governing power in the Empire. Doubtless in the 
hope of strengthening it and perhaps at the inspiration of 
Erzberger or Czernin, or both, the Pope issued upon August 1 
a note addressed to all the belligerents, suggesting a settle- 
ment of the war based upon the principles of complete re- 
storation of occupied territory, disarmament, and inter- 
national arbitration. 

In Europe the Allies seemed to be somewhat fearful lest 
the President should answer the Pope's offer in such a way as 
to commit the United States to negotiations for which the 
Allies were unprepared, or so as to weaken the war spirit in 
Allied countries. They were embarrassed by the lack of close 
coordination with the United States, especially in view of the 
fact that Wilson was coming to be regarded in the popular 
mind as spokesman for their cause as against that of Ger- 

Sir William Wiseman to Colonel House 


LONDON, August 11, 1917 

Mr. Balfour has just received through the British repre- 
sentative at the Vatican an appeal from the Pope in favor 
of peace addressed to the belligerent governments. The full 
text of the appeal has not yet been received, but from the 
cabled summary it is clear that it will raise many questions 

1 Buchan, A History of the Great War, iv, 14. 


of difficulty. What answer, if any [should be made], will have 
to be very carefully considered, and Mr. Balfour hopes that 
the President will be inclined to let him know privately what 
his views on the subject are. 


Colonel House to the President 

August 13, 1917 


. . . Enclosed are some cables from Sir William. Balfour is 
evidently very much concerned regarding the Pope's appeal 
and I hope you will feel that you can give him your private 
opinion as he requests. . . . 

Affectionately yours 


Colonel House himself was unquestionably convinced that 
a categoric refusal to consider the Pope's peace proposal 
would have unfortunate effects. It would discourage the 
German liberals, who would be again told that the Entente 
were planning nothing less than the political annihilation of 
Germany. It would hasten the collapse of war-weary Russia. 
House was anxious that the President should use this oppor- 
tunity to insist publicly that it was not the Entente that 
stood in the way of peace, but rather the imperialistic designs 
of Germany as represented by Ludendorff . 

Thus on grounds of policy he desired a conciliatory reply. 
Emotionally he wanted to have a hearing given to any peace 
proposal whatever, on the chance of shortening the war and 
relieving humanity of its present sufferings. He was appalled 
by the horror of war. Who could guarantee that, by con- 
tinuing the butchery until the maximum war aims of the 
Allies were secured, the final settlement would be sufficiently 
improved to justify the loss of life? 


Colonel House to the President 

August 15, 1917 


I am wondering how you will think it best to answer the 
Pope's peace proposal. 

It seems to me that the situation is full of danger as well 
as hope. France may succumb this winter. Russia is so eager 
to get at her internal problems that she will soon, almost 
certainly, insist upon peace on a basis of the status quo ante. 

It is more important, I think, that Russia should weld 
herself into a virile republic than it is that Germany should 
be beaten to her knees. If internal disorder reach a point 
in Russia where Germany can intervene, it is conceivable 
that in the future she may be able to dominate Russia both 
politically and economically. Then the clock of progress 
would indeed be set back. 

With Russia firmly established in democracy, German 
autocracy would be compelled to yield to a representative 
government within a very few years. 

On a basis of the status quo ante, the Entente could aid 
Austria in emancipating herself from Prussia. Turkey could 
be sustained as an independent nation under the condition 
that Constantinople and the Straits have some sort of inter- 
nationalization. This would settle the question of a division 
of Asia Minor between England, Russia, France, and Italy 
a division which is pregnant with future trouble. Turkey 
would be inclined towards the Entente to-day if it were not 
that she prefers being a German province rather than to be 
dismembered as proposed by the Allies. . . . 

This leads me to hope that you will answer the Pope's 
proposal in some such way as to leave the door open and to 
throw the onus on Prussia. This, I think, can be done if 
you will say that the peace terms of America are well known, 
but that it is useless to discuss the question until those of the 


Prussian militarists are also known, and further that it is 
hardly fair to ask the people of the Allied countries to discuss 
terms with a military autocracy an autocracy that does 
not represent the opinion of the people for whom they speak. 
If the people of the Central Powers had a voice in the settle- 
ment it is probable an overwhelming majority would be 
found willing to make a peace acceptable to the other peoples 
of the world a peace founded upon international amity 
and justice. 

I believe an occasion has presented itself for you to make 
a notable utterance and one which may conceivably lead to 
great results. 

Affectionately yours 


The President was more belligerent than House, less in- 
clined to any sort of compromise ; he intimated that he might 
not take any notice at all of the Pope's offer. He went on to 
indicate his objections to even a tentative acceptance of the 
papal proposal, which he asked House to forward to England 
for Balfour's information. 1 

Colonel House to Mr. A. J. Balfour 


August 18, 1917 

In reply to your request, the President bids me say: 
'I do not know that I shall make any reply at all to the 
Pope's proposals, but I am glad to let Mr. Balfour know 
what it would be were I to make one as it is possible I 
may be led by circumstances to do. 
* Appreciation should, of course, be expressed of the hu- 

1 Comment by Sir William Wiseman on the following cable: 'Em- 
phasis should be laid on the fact that Wilson answered Balfour through 
House regarding so important a matter as the Pope's peace offer/ 


mane purpose of the Pope and a general sympathy with his 
desire to see the end of this terrible war come on terms 
honorable to all concerned; but these objections should be 

' (1) That no intimation is conveyed that the terms sug- 
gested meet the views of any of the belligerents and that to 
discuss them would be a blind adventure; 

' (2) That such terms constitute no settlement, but only a 
return to the status quo ante and would leave affairs in the 
same attitude that furnished a pretext for the war; and 

' (3) That the absolute disregard alike of all formal obliga- 
tions of treaty and all accepted principles of international 
law which the autocratic regime still dominant in Germany 
has shown in the whole action of this war has made it im- 
possible for other governments to accept its assurances on 
anything, least of all on the terms upon which peace will be 
maintained. The present German Imperial Government is 
morally bankrupt; no one will accept or credit its pledges; 
and the world will be upon quicksand in regard to all inter- 
national covenants which include Germany until it can be- 
lieve that it is dealing with a responsible government.' 

Personally, I feel that the door should not be shut 
abruptly. It will give the Prussian militarists the advantage 
of again consolidating sentiment in Germany. 


Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, August 22, 1917 

I am in fullest sympathy with the President's line of 
thought as expressed in your telegram received August 20th. 

I have telegraphed our British Minister at the Vatican 
saying we have had no opportunity of consulting with the 
Allies and therefore are not in a position to say what answer 
if any should be sent to the Pope. But that in our opinion it 


was time for the Central Powers to make a statement of 
their policy. This had already been done by the Entente 
Powers. Next move should be made by enemy. United 
States Ambassador here is telegraphing full text. I hope this 
step will meet with the President's approval. 

First thought of the Russian Government is that a reason- 
able reply on behalf of all the Allies should be sent. First 
thought of the French Government is that no answer is at 
present necessary. For my part, I greatly dread idea of any 
joint endeavor of composing elaborate document dealing 
with complex problems necessarily looked at from somewhat 
different angles by each belligerent. Drafting difficulties 
alone seem to render task impossible. 

A. J. B. 

Colonel House to the President 

August 17, 1917 


I am so impressed with the importance of the situation 
that I am troubling you again. . . . 

I believe you have an opportunity to take the peace nego- 
tiations out of the hands of the Pope and hold them in your 
own. Governmental Germany realizes that no one excepting 
you is in a position to enforce peace terms. The Allies must 
succumb to your judgment and Germany is not much better 
off. Badly as the Allied cause is going, Germany is in a 
worse condition. It is a race now of endurance, with Ger- 
many as likely to go under first as any of the Entente Powers. 

Germany and Austria are a seething mass of discontent. 
The Russian Revolution has shown the people their power 
and it has put the fear of God into the hearts of the Im- 

A statement from you regarding the aims of this country 
would bring about almost revolution in Germany in the 


event the existing Government dared to oppose them. The 
mistake has been made over and over again in the Allied 
countries in doing and saying the things that best helped 
the militarists. The German people are told and believe 
that the Allies desire not only to dismember them, but to 
make it economically impossible to live after the war. They 
are therefore welded together with their backs to the wall. 

A statement from you setting forth the real issues would 
have an enormous effect and would probably bring about 
such an upheaval in Germany as we desire. While the sub- 
marine campaign gives them hope, it is a deferred hope, and 
the Government, not less than the people, are fearful what 
may happen in the interim. What is needed, it seems to me, 
is a firm tone, full of determination, but yet breathing a 
spirit of liberalism and justice that will make the people of 
the Central Powers feel safe in your hands. You could say 
again that our people had entered this fight with fixed pur- 
pose and high courage and would continue to fight until a 
new order of liberty and justice for all people was brought 
about and some agreement reached by which such another 
war could never again occur. 

You can make a statement that will not only be the un- 
doing of autocratic Germany, but one that will strengthen 
the hands of the Russian liberals in their purpose to mould 
their country into a mighty republic. 

I pray that you may not lose this great opportunity. 
Affectionately yours 


August 19, 1917 


The Russian Ambassador is with me to-day. He is very 
much disturbed over the Pope's peace overture and how 
you will reply to it. 


He believes that success or failure in Russia may depend 
upon your answer. He takes the same view as I do except 
that he feels more keenly on account of its effect upon not 
only Russia but the present government there. He believes 
if it is treated lightly and not in a spirit of liberalism it will 
immediately split Russia and will probably cause the down- 
fall of the present ministry. 

I asked him why he had not conveyed this view to you. 
His reply was that he hesitated to impose himself upon you 
unless you sent for him. . . . 

His Government think the Allies have made a mistake in 
refusing passports to the Stockholm Conference. 1 If, in addi- 
tion to doing this, they brush aside the Pope's overtures, he 
considers it inevitable that there will be a schism, not only 
in Russia, but probably in other countries as well. 

He^would like you to take the lead and let Russia follow. 
He hopes you may be willing to say that the United States 
will treat with the German people at any time they are in a 
position to name their own representatives. He thinks that 
is the crux of the situation. 

At first, he thought it well to speak of the Kaiser. I ex- 
plained why this was not advisable and he agreed. He then 
suggested the military caste as the offenders, and again I 
cautioned against this. The German people here for more 
than a century [have] been taught to believe that their great- 
est duty to the Fatherland was to offer their services in a 
military way and they cannot understand just what we mean 
by 'militarism' as applied to Germany and not to France, 
Russia, and other countries. They can and do understand 

1 In April the Internationale issued invitations for a Socialist Confer- 
ence at Stockholm, which the Russian revolutionary leaders insisted 
should be used to clarify war aims. A committee under the presidency 
of the Swedish Socialist, Branting, received the deputies who arrived 
from the enemy states; the British and French Governments refused to 
give passports to Sweden to those desiring to attend the Conference, 
which Germany was believed to favor as a means of fostering the pacifist 
spirit among the Allied peoples. 


what we mean by representative government and they are 
eager for it. 

I have pointed out to such Germans as I have met that the 
worst thing that could happen to Germany would be a peace 
along the lines of the status quo ante with the present form of 
government in control. 1 All the hate and bitterness that the 
war has engendered would cling to them and it would express 
itself in trade warfare and in all kinds of social and economic 
directions. With a representative government, they could 
return to the brotherhood of nations, declaring that the fault 
had not been theirs. In this way, they would make a certain 
reparation which would come near leading to forgiveness. 

I believe you are facing one of the great crises that the 
world has known, but I feel confident that you will meet it 
with that fine spirit of courage and democracy which has 
become synonymous with your name. 

Affectionately yours 


Colonel House was by no means unaware of the opposing 
opinion which held that the Pope's offer, inspired by the 
Germans and Austrians, indicated their failing strength and 
was designed merely to save them from the just consequences 
of a war which they had started and made the most brutal 
in history. Ambassador Jusserand wrote very definitely that 
any peace based upon pre-war boundaries would mean the 
defeat of everything for which the Allies had been fighting. 
He shared with President Wilson a suspicion of the promises 
of the existing rulers of Germany. 

1 President Wilson later expressed this same thought in his message to 
Congress, December 4, 1917: 'The worst that can happen to the detri- 
ment of the German people is this, that if they should still, after the war 
is over, continue to be obliged to live under ambitious and intriguing 
masters interested to disturb the peace of the world, ... it might be im- 
possible to admit them to the partnership of nations which must hence- 
forth guarantee the world's peace,' 


Ambassador Jusserand to Colonel House l 

WASHINGTON, August 23, 1917 

I usually rejoice at the thought that Magnolia is a cool, 
pleasant Northern place where you make provisions of 
health for the good of your country and the satisfaction of 
your friends. When important events happen, my feeling is 
not quite the same; I regret that pretty place is so far, and 
the chain tying me here so strong. 

I should have liked so much to have with you a few 
moments' talk concerning the Pope's note. 

To my mind, it is the German note of December last, in a 
new garb. The garb is more ornamented, but what is under 
is the same. The aim is to establish a sort of status quo ante, 
and in reality not even as much; so that the criminals (who 
have just set fire to the cathedral at St.-Quentin, in order to 
show that the leopard has not changed its spots) be not 
punished, and that their fate be not what it must needs be, 
if the world is to become 'a safe place for democracy': an 
example and a warning. All the questions which might 
trouble the Germans would be postponed till another day, 
till doomsday may be. As for the status quo, think of Belgium 
and France recovering their ravaged, destroyed, blood- 
soaked unfortunate cities and territories, just as they are, 
while the Germans would go home, to there enjoy, until the 
next time, the * glory' of their deeds, and the vast plunder 
taken by them against all laws. 

The Austro-Germanic inspiration is shown in many ways. 
The fact that Serbia is not even mentioned is characteristic; 
also the insistence for the freedom of the seas, and the state- 
ment that 'on both sides the honor of arms is safe.' May our 
arms never be shamed by the kind of * honor' the German 
troops reaped at Louvain, Reims, and elsewhere 1 

1 This letter, M. Jusserand writes in 1928, 'is not, of course, permeated 
with the Locarno spirit; but those were pre-Locarno days.' 


And the whole fabric, based on the pledged word of all! 
when we know, and you know (the submarine pledges made 
to you) what the German word is worth and how it vanishes 
when * necessity,' Le., interest, is at stake. 

I do not know what are the views of the President. Many 
in Europe think that the note is so obviously one more enemy 
move, that it might be left with no other answer than the 
* accuse de reception' already sent by the English. Or, if one 
is made, it should be very general, referring to the answer 
sent to the President concerning peace. We cannot have 
different answers for the President and for the Pope; we have 
not changed our minds*; and on the principles, at least, em- 
bodied in this answer, the President himself has shown, by 
his subsequent addresses to Congress, that he agreed. 

What is, on these grave problems, your own opinion? I 
should be pleased and proud to think that it somewhat 
agreed with mine. 

With best wishes for your health, I beg you to believe me, 
my dear Colonel, 

Very sincerely yours 


Colonel House to Ambassador Jusserand 

August 26, 1917 


... I, too, regret that I am heat-bound and that I have 
not been able to be in Washington during the summer. 
However, my exile is almost over and I hope to see you 

I believe you are right in thinking that the Pope's peace 
overture was inspired by Austria. I am not so certain that 
the Germans had a hand in it. ... 

Your very sincere 




President Wilson finally decided to reply in formal fashion 
to the Pope and to base his reply, like his Flag Day speech, 
upon the doctrine of peace to the German people and war 
on the German Government. He centered his note, as he 
wrote to Colonel House, on the point that it was impossible 
to accept the word of the existing rulers of Germany. This 
in itself might serve to weaken German confidence in their 
leaders. He continued with the assurance that the Allies did 
not desire the political or economic annihilation of Germany 
and hinted strongly that reconciliation with a liberalized 
Germany might be possible. He disavowed explicitly the 
threats made in certain Allied quarters of an economic war 
against Germany after the peace, and specifically guaranteed 
his opposition to * punitive damages, the dismemberment of 
empires, the establishment of selfish and exclusive economic 
leagues/ The essence of the reply, then, was a refusal to con- 
sider a peace of reconciliation concluded with the present 
rulers of Germany; but an invitation to the German liberals 
to cooperate in a new and better world organization: 

* We cannot take the word of the present rulers of Germany 
as a guarantee of anything that is to endure [unless explicitly 
supported by such conclusive evidence of the will and pur- 
pose of the German people themselves as the other peoples 
of the world would be justified in accepting. Without such 
guarantees] * treaties of settlement, agreements for disarma- 
ment, covenants to set up arbitration in the place of force, 
territorial adjustments, reconstitutions of small nations, if 
made with the German Government, no man, no nation, 
could now depend on. 

'We must await some new evidence of the purposes of the 
great peoples of the Central Powers. 2 God grant it may be 

1 The words enclosed in brackets were not in the draft sent to House. 
1 In the original draft President Wilson had written 'Empires.' 


given soon and in a way to restore the confidence of all 
peoples everywhere in the faith of nations and the possibility 
of a covenanted peace/ 

President Wilson sent on to House for his criticism the 
first draft of the note. * Please tell me exactly what you think 
of it/ he wrote. And later: I shall await your comments 
with the deepest interest, because the many useful sugges- 
tions you have made were in my mind all the while I wrote. 
... I think of you every day with the deepest affection. 1 

With the exception of a half-dozen slight verbal alterations 
and two short interpolations, the draft note sent for House's 
inspection was the same as that finally published. 

'August 23, 1917: This has been one of the busiest and 
most important days of the summer/ wrote House. 'The 
President sent his reply to the Pope's peace proposal. ... I 
did not receive it until twelve o'clock and, although I had 
John J. Spurgeon, Colcord, and Bullitt, of the Public Ledger, 
with me, I succeeded in reading, digesting, and answering it 
in time to mail on the Federal Express. While Murray 2 did 
not know its contents, he seemed to sense its importance, for 
he said that, unless the superintendent would guarantee its 
safe delivery by to-morrow morning, he would himself take 
it to Washington. He is to place the letter in a special pouch, 
and it is to be taken at once to the White House upon its 
arrival in Washington. Murray would have been even more 
impressed had he known that he had in his possession what 
at the moment was the most interesting document in the 

1 Wilson to House, August 22, 1917. 

1 Former Congressman and then Postmaster of Boston, who was 
spending the day with House. 


Colonel House to the President 

August 24, 1917 


You have again written a declaration of human liberty 

I am sure it is the wise, the statesmanlike, and the right way 
to answer the Pope's peace overtures. England and France 
will not like some of it, notably where on page three you say 
that 'no peace can rest upon political or economic restrictions 
meant to benefit some nations and cripple others, upon 
vindictive action of any sort, or any kind of revenge or de- 
liberate injury/ 

And again on page four where you say: 'Punitive damages, 
the dismemberment of empires, the establishment of selfish 
and economic leagues, we deem childish, etc/ But you have 
the right of it, and are fully justified in laying down the 
fundamentals of a new and greater international morality. 

America will not and ought not to fight for the mainte- 
nance of the old, narrow, and selfish order of things. You 
are blazing a new path, and the world must follow, or be lost 
again in the meshes of unrighteous intrigue. 

I am cabling Balfour expressing my personal hope that 
England, France, and Italy will accept your answer as also 

I am, with an abiding affection, 

Your devoted 


August 25, 1917 


May I suggest that you substitute some other word for 
'childish* in the sentence beginning * Punitive damages, dis- 
memberment of empires, etc.' l 

1 In the final draft the President substituted the word 'inexpedient' in 
place of 'childish/ 


This sentence may cause dissension and to apply the term 
'childish* to the group advocating these things would add 
fuel to the fire. Of course, what you say is true, but some- 
times the truth hurts more than anything else. 

Affectionately yours 


'September 5, 1917: The Attorney General stopped off on 
his way to Maine/ wrote House, 'and spent the day. ... I 
asked him when the Cabinet knew about the President's 
reply to the Pope. He said not until the afternoon of the 
28th, at the Cabinet meeting. . . . Gregory said there was no 

dissension concerning it The first proof of the message 

had in it the word "childish," but after receiving my second 
letter on the subject, the President evidently called in the 
first issue and eliminated that word. Gordon tells me that 
the British Ambassador told him that Jusserand was happy 
at the change.' 

The President's note to the Pope, which was published on 
August 29, evoked general commendation. I am delighted, 
wrote Mr. Wilson to House, that you thought the reply 
what it should be and that it has, on the whole, been so well 
received. 1 Dr. Alderman, of the University of Virginia, later 
wrote to House that of all Wilson's messages it touched the 
'high-water mark of his papers in its breadth and dignity 
and beauty.' The day of its appearance Lord Grey said of 
Wilson's messages, 'one after the other they go to the real 
root of the matter and fill me with satisfaction.' Lord Robert 
Cecil cabled to House in the same vein: 'We greatly admire 
the note and it has been received with much satisfaction by 
our Press.' 

The Americans of German ancestry noted the opportu- 
nity given by Wilson's reply for influencing liberal opinion 

1 Wilson to House, September 2, 1917. 


in Germany* On September 19 House recorded: 'Bernard 
Ridder called this morning to talk over his plans to get the 
German-Americans back of the President's answer to the 

Mr. Karl von Weigand to Colonel House 

WASHINGTON, August 29, 1917 

It is to my mind the greatest step that has yet been taken 
towards peace. Its effect will be splendid in Germany. The 
psychological tactics will avail the President more in attain- 
ing the end he has aimed at than many corps on the front. 
It gives the German liberals every assurance they have 
wanted. It confirms everything that Harden has been writ- 
ing about Mr. Wilson. It is a wonderful document. 
Sincerely yours 


Colonel House had kept in close touch with the British 
while the reply to the Pope was under consideration, and put 
forward the suggestion that the Allies would agree to accept 
the President's note as their own answer to the Pope. This 
would in itself go far towards a coordination of war aims and 
perhaps indicate a tendency towards revision of the more 
extreme territorial aspirations of the Allies. I hope with all 
my heart, wrote President Wilson to him, that the associ- 
ated governments will ... say ditto to us. 1 

Colonel House to Mr. A. J. Balfour 


August 24, 1917 

The President has composed an answer to the Pope's peace 
overture, and will probably send it within a few days. 

1 Wilson to House, August 22, 1917. 

\ H - 

(now Viscount Cecil) 


It will serve, I think, to unite Russia and add to the con- 
fusion in Germany. 

If the Allied Governments could accept it as their answer 
to the Pope, it would, in my opinion, strengthen their cause 
throughout the world. If the United States are to put forth 
their maximum effort, there must be a united people, and 
the President has struck the note necessary to make this 


Lord Robert Cecil to Colonel House 


LONDON, August 27, 1917 

I am grateful for information contained in your telegram 
of August 25th. My view is that it would be very desirable 
for British and other allied governments to accept the Presi- 
dent's reply as their answer to the Pope. The question is 
however one of such importance that I shall have to consult 
the Cabinet and also our allies. I assume the President's 
reply follows the lines already sketched out but I should be 
very grateful if it were possible to send me a summary of it 
if the President sees no objection. 


Colonel House to the President 


August 28, 1917 

... In order to get cordial cooperation it would seem ad- 
visable to give your reply to the Governments in advance. 
It would be particularly desirable in case of Russia. 


It proved too late to give to the Allies advance copies of 
the reply to the Pope, since arrangements for publication 


on August 29 had already been made. It is evident also that 
the President was conscious of such a difference between his 
point of view and that of the European Allies that he feared 
any attempt to reach an agreement: I felt morally certain, 
he wrote House, that they would wish changes which I 
could not make. . . . The differences of opinion will be less 
embarrassing now than they would have been if I had invited 
them beforehand. 1 

Those differences doubtless account for the disappoint- 
ment of House's hope that the Allies would formally ratify 
the President's note and thus achieve something like a uni- 
fied programme of war aims. It is likely that the French and 
Italians felt that such ratification would commit them too 
far in the direction of a revision of the aspirations that found 
expression in the secret treaties. 


It was probably President Wilson's acute consciousness of 
the difference between his own war aims and those of the 
Allies that led him at this time to plan a definite formulation 
of the American peace programme. The time had not yet 
come when the details of that programme could be publicly 
announced. In his reply to the Pope, as he had written 
Colonel House, he was forced to a certain vagueness for the 
sake of sparing Allied feelings: I have not thought it wise 
to ... be more specific because it might provoke dissenting 
voices from France and Italy if I should if I should say, 
for example, that their territorial claims did not interest us. 2 
But the time when the American peace programme would 
have to be clearly expressed was approaching. Mr. Wilson 
wanted to be prepared not merely to formulate American 
war aims exactly, but also to understand the objections to 

1 Wilson to House, September 2, 1917. 

Wilson to House, August 22, 1917. See above, p. 51. 


them which might be raised by our associates and to study 
means to bring our associates over to his ideals. 

I am beginning to think, he wrote House on September 2, 
that we ought to go systematically to work to ascertain as 
fully and precisely as possible just what the several parties 
to this war on our side will be inclined to insist upon as part 
of the final peace arrangements. We ought, he added, to 
prepare our own position either for or against them and begin 
to gather the influences we wished to employ, or at least 
ascertain what influences we could use: in brief, prepare our 
case with a full knowledge of the position of all the litigants. 
Several of the Governments, he observed, had begun to 
gather material and get * their pipes laid.' . . . What would 
you think of quietly getting about you a group of men to 
assist you to do this? . . . Under your guidance these assist- 
ants could collate all the definite material available and you 
could make up the memorandum by which we should be 
guided. 1 

Colonel House replied with enthusiasm that he would 
undertake the task thus defined by the President. 'I have 
been trying to do in a quiet and not very efficient way what 
you have suggested as wanting me to do systematically and 
thoroughly/ 2 Mr. Wilson thereupon discussed the main 
lines of the organization with the Secretary of State, with the 
result that it was decided to give House a free hand and per- 
mit him to work out the problem of outlining the important 
questions in his own way: Lansing is not only content that 
you should undertake the preparation of data for the peace 

1 Wilson to House, September 2, 1917. 

8 Mr. Phillips, First Assistant Secretary of State, had written to House 
in May that we were not equipped with adequate information for the 
peace conference on the Balkan and Near Eastern situation. House had 
made arrangements for a special investigation by Mr. W. H. Buckler of 
the London Embassy, which he planned to extend to other problems. 
Phillips to House, May 19, June 6, August 16, 1917; Buckler to House, 
August 1, November 3, 1917; House to Wilson, September 21, 1917. 


conference, wrote Wilson to House on September 19, but 
volunteers the opinion that you were the only one to do it. 1 

The organization thus inaugurated came to be called 'The 
Inquiry/ President Mezes, of the College of the City of New 
York, was named Director, and Mr. Walter Uppmann, then 
on the staff of the New Republic, Secretary. Headquarters 
were in New York, where the American Geographical Society 
offered its offices, library, and map-making facilities, as well 
as the invaluable services of its Director, Dr. Isaiah Bowman. 
For the most part its work was entirely separate from that of 
the Department of State or of the Military Intelligence Divi- 
sion of the General Staff; it concentrated not on current 
problems but rather on those that would be raised at the 
peace conference. Nevertheless the President at various 
times approached the Inquiry for data and advice on current 
policy, even before its collections were complete, and on at 
least one occasion utilized the information thus provided for 
the most important of his pronouncements on foreign policy. 2 
Regarding the work of the Inquiry, Sir William Wiseman 
later wrote: 

Wiseman Memorandum on The Inquiry 

June 5, 1928 

'From the early months of the war, allied foreign offices 
began to consider the terms of peace and the mechanics of 
the peace conference which must come some day. They were 
able to look back over many precedents of conferences, great 
and small. Several of their elder statesmen had actually 
taken part in important conferences. Lord Balfour, for in- 
stance, had been private secretary to his uncle, Lord Salis- 
bury, at the conference of Berlin. The British and the 
French, and doubtless the other Allied Powers, appointed 

1 Wilson to House, September 19, 1917. 
* See below, Chapter XL 


members of their foreign offices, ex-diplomats, and other 
experts, to prepare for the peace conference. 

'The Americans, on the other hand, had little by way of 
precedent to guide them. The records of the State Depart- 
ment, naturally enough, did not contain much first-hand in- 
formation about the European peace conferences of the past. 
It has therefore been sometimes assumed that the American 
Delegation came to Paris ill-prepared, and that Wilson had 
not the benefit of the research and skilled advice afforded to 
the other heads of missions. This is not true. Colonel House 
foresaw very clearly the need for preparation, and as early 
as the summer of 1917 suggested a plan to Wilson which at 
once appealed to the President's scholarly and orderly mind. 
Colonel House proposed that an organization be created 
which was called The Inquiry, under the direction of Dr. 
Mezes. The best available American historians and special- 
ists with practical experience were invited to join the staff. 
Dr. Isaiah Bowman became executive officer and worked out 
the organization of the subjects to be studied. Professor J. 
T. Shotwell was in charge of historical geography and, after 
the Inquiry moved to Paris, of the library. David Hunter 
Miller, who was in charge of legal problems, later became 
known and respected by all the delegations in Paris as one 
of the ablest legal minds at the Conference. Walter Lipp- 
mann, the present brilliant editor of the New York World, 
was secretary. It is my impression that Lippmann furnished 
the abstract ideas which found their way into a good many 
of the memoranda of the American Delegation and ulti- 
mately into some of President Wilson's public speeches. To 
name but a few of the others: George Louis Beer was in 
charge of colonial questions; Charles H. Haskins, of problems 
of western Europe; Clive Day, of Balkan problems; Douglas 
Johnson, of boundary questions; W. L. Westermann, pro- 
blems of the Turkish Empire; and Allyn A. Young, of eco- 
nomic questions. 


'This earnest and scholarly group of men gave deep and 
impartial study to the tremendous and complicated problems 
arising from a war which shattered the remnants of the Holy 
Roman Empire, dissipated the dreams of Bismarck, and left 
the great Russian Empire chaotic and impotent. 

'The members of the Inquiry conferred freely with any 
one American or foreign who could speak with au- 
thority and knowledge of any pertinent matter. Facts, 
opinions, prejudices, were patiently considered and carefully 
analyzed. The results of their work, their conclusions, their 
best advice, were summarized and submitted to the President 
by Colonel House, together with his own wise observations. 

'Wilson often surprised his colleagues in Paris by his deep 
knowledge of the affairs of the Balkans, the bitter political 
struggle in Poland, or the delicate question of the Adriatic. 
If Wilson's theories seemed strange and impractical to the 
realists of Europe, at least they could find no fault with the 
accuracy of his facts. 

'Among the many services which the American Nation 
rendered to the world during this crisis in its history, the 
work of the Inquiry is by no means the least important and 
the record of the Inquiry, so little known to the public, re- 
mains a fine example of a difficult task, well accomplished 
and most modestly/ 

To the student of Wilsonian policy the chief interest of 
the inauguration of the Inquiry at this time is the indication 
it gives of the President's consciousness that the task of per- 
suading our European associates in the war to accept his 
point of view would demand careful preparation and effort. 
He felt that the need for a revision of what some termed the 
imperialist aspirations of the Entente was vital, not merely 
to attain a final settlement of justice but to assure whole- 
hearted prosecution of the war against Germany. The Allies 
must make it plain that they were waging their battle in 


behalf of permanent peace and not for the sake of territorial 
annexations. Only thus could the enthusiasm of liberal and 
labor elements be maintained. The situation in Russia de- 
manded a new and a more explicit justification of the con- 
tinuation of the war. The effect of Wilson's speeches upon 
German loyalty to the military group would attain its full 
value only when his principles were completely and formally 
endorsed by the Allies. Coordination of war aims between 
the Allies and the United States was just as important, in a 
certain sense, as coordination of military and economic 


I think it is essential to the cause of the Allies that a representative of the 
United States of the first rank should come over here officially as soon as 
possible. . . . 

Mr. Lloyd George to Colonel House, September 4, 1917 

COLONEL HOUSE, driven by the heat away from New York, 
spent the entire summer of 1917 at Magnolia, so that for 
the space of more than three months he did not see the 
President. I am both glad and sorry that you have got 
off to the Massachusetts shore, Wilson wrote him; glad for 
your sake, sorry for ours, who would wish to be much nearer 
to you. 1 The separation gave rise to the usual rumor of a 
break between the two, which appeared in the newspapers 
of September 6. Colonel House's only comment to curious 
reporters who pressed for an explanation was that the rumor 
was 'somewhat belated,' as it generally came * about mid- 
summer along with the sea-serpent stories.' 

The truth was that the President's confidence in House 
was never greater than during this summer and early au- 
tumn. He wrote at the end of September that he was hoping 
each day to get an opportunity to discuss 'the many things 
we must talk over, you and I. Affectionately yours.' * It 
was during this period that he constantly asked House for 
advice and criticism on his speeches dealing with foreign 
policy and our relations with the Allies; s he asked him to 
take charge of the collection of data for the peace conference, 
to investigate a very delicate problem involving charges of 
espionage, to give his opinion upon British blockade policy 

1 Wilson to House, June 1, 1917. Ibid., September 26, 1917. 
1 Ibid. June 1, June 15, July 21, August 16, August 22, September 22, 


toward the European neutrals; l he entrusted him with con- 
fidential messages to be sent to the Allied leaders regarding 
interallied coordination, British policy in Palestine, and the 
handling of suggestions for peace emanating from Germany. 1 
He finally selected him to head the War Mission designed to 
establish effective cooperation with the Allies, the first of its 
kind ever sent by the United States to Europe. 

The President's letters, almost without exception, con- 
tained a personal phrase that more than anything else sug- 
gests the nature of the friendship between the two: All join 

me in warmest messages. Affectionately yours I am 

writing on the Mayflower . . . seeking a day or two of relief 
from the madness of Washington. A point is reached now 
and again where I must escape it for a little. Your grateful 

friend Do not be alarmed about my health. I need rest, 

and am growing daily more conscious that I do; but I am fit 

and all right. All join in affectionate messages It was 

a great pleasure to see you. In desperate Monday haste. 

The first personal conference between the President and 
House after the summer came as the result of a surprise 
visit which Wilson made to the North Shore on September 9. 
He left the White House by the rear entrance, escaping 
notice until he reached New York, where he embarked upon 
the Mayflower. Not even the Cabinet knew of his trip until 
he had left Washington. 

'September 9, 1917: Around seven o'clock the Navy Yard 
of Boston called me over the telephone to say they had a 
wireless stating that the Mayflower would be in Gloucester 
Harbor at two o'clock. Loulie and I went over to meet the 
boat, boarded it, met the President and Mrs. Wilson, and 
motored along the shore for two hours or more. We stopped 

1 Wilson to House, September 19, September 24, September 26, Octo- 
ber 1, 1917. 
Ibid., October 7, October 13, 1917. 


first at our cottage and then went over to Mrs. T. Jefferson 
Coolidge's house to look at her prints, china, etc., which have 
been inherited from Thomas Jefferson. 

'We dined on the Mayflower. Before dinner the President 
and I had an intimate talk of perhaps an hour and again for 

an hour and a half after dinner He told me of the talk 

he made to the naval officers when he inspected the fleet at 
Hampton Roads not long ago. He spoke to all of them, in- 
cluding ensigns, and said about this: "None of you have 
had any experience in modern warfare, therefore the least of 
you knows as much as the highest, and I would like sugges- 
tions from any officer in the Navy, no matter how humble 
his rank, regarding the conduct of our war at sea. These sug- 
gestions will be received by the Navy Board, and if you find 
they are not noticed, then send them to me direct." l . . . 

'He is sending a commission to England recommended 
at the suggestion of Arthur Pollen and others, and he told 
the members before they left that he wished them to go over 
and find a way to break up the hornets' nest, and not try 
to kill individual hornets over a forty-acre lot. He said he 
was willing to risk the loss of half our navy if there was a 
commensurate gain. 2 We discussed the question of capital 
ships. . . . 

'During the afternoon we were discussing Lincoln. We 
agreed that Washington would continue in history the 

1 Address of President Wilson to the officers of the Atlantic fleet, 
August 11, 1917. 

2 The text of President Wilson's speech does not agree exactly with 
what he says to House on this occasion: * I am willing to sacrifice half the 
navy Great Britain and we together have, to crush that nest,' said Wilson 
to the navy officers on the Flagship Pennsylvania, 'because if we crush it, 
the war is won.' Admiral Sims comments sarcastically upon this sentence: 
'This is master strategy with a vengeance! If the "crushing" had suc- 
ceeded at the cost of half the fleets, that would have left the German fleet 
in command of the sea, and ensured the defeat of the Allies.' (World's 
Work, March, 1927.) 

To House, however, the President merely suggested risking half of the 
American navy and not of the combined fleets, 


greater man. I repeated what Sedgwick said when he 
lunched with me Saturday; i.e., that a Massachusetts his- 
torian had made the statement that Lincoln would never 
have been great by his deeds, but it was what he had writ- 
ten that had impressed the world and had given an insight 
into his mind that otherwise would never have been un- 
folded. The President did not agree with this. He thought 
Lincoln's deeds entitled him to greatness as well as what 
he wrote. He thought that his environment was, to a cer- 
tain extent, limited and that by lack of wider education he 
did not have the outlook he might otherwise have had. 
Yet he thought his judgment would have been equal to 
any situation that might have confronted him. 

'September 10, 1917: Once or twice during the conversa- 
tion I threw the President off his line of thought by inter- 
polations, and he found it difficult to return to his subject. 
He smiled plaintively, and said, "You see I am getting tired. 
This is the way it indicates itself." 

'No man has ever had deeper or graver responsibilities, 
and no one has met them with more patience, courage, and 

* During lunch the President spoke of his nervousness when 
speaking in public. I had thought that he was entirely free 
from it, and yet he said if he had to walk across a crowded 
stage, with an audience in front of him, he always wondered 
whether he would drop before he reached the speakers' stand. 

'While driving, he described himself as "a democrat like 
Jefferson, with aristocratic tastes." Intellectually, he said, 
he was entirely democratic, which in his opinion was un- 
fortunate, for the reason that his mind led him where his 
taste rebelled. 9 


It is rather surprising that the vitally important problem 
of interallied coordination was scarcely touched upon by 


House and Wilson during this visit to the North Shore. It 
may have been that each avoided a discussion which might 
have proved wearying to the President on his vacation and 
which would at best have been academic, since Lord Read- 
ing, the new British Commissioner, was still on the high seas. 
Two days later Reading landed at New York, and the ques- 
tion of achieving better cooperative effort immediately came 
to the front. 

On his return to New York, Colonel House was soon 
brought into relations with the new British envoy, as close 
perhaps as those he maintained with Northcliffe. 

Reading handled a difficult situation with skill and tact. 
'There are serious financial problems unsolved/ reported 
Wiseman to the British Foreign Office, 'but Reading is ap- 
proaching them in the right spirit and is a very acceptable 
person to all the Administration. House, as usual, is very 
helpful, and I believe we are now tackling the situation pro- 
perly. While I cannot say there is any popular enthusiasm 
for the war, there is a very solid determination to carry on 
with all the resources of the country until the German mili- 
tary power is crushed. The position of the President remains 
very strong. Feeling towards the British is improving ' 

On October 4, Wiseman reported that Reading 'has made 
the very best impression on McAdoo and all others con- 
cerned. It is universally admitted that the British Treasury 
is properly represented for the first time, and our other 
Allies have had to recognize that he has immediately become 
the dominant figure in finance/ Northcliffe endorsed this 
opinion enthusiastically. 

Northcliffe to Mr. Lloyd George 


NEW YORK, September 30, 1917 

Reading is working indef atigably, amidst great difficulties. 
He was able to obtain fifty million dollars for Canadian 


wheat, which really was an inroad on the basic principle that 
every cent of money advanced to the Allies should be spent 
in the United States. This achievement of Reading is in my 
opinion one that could not be brought about by any one not 
possessed of Reading's ability, charm, and tact in handling 
these difficult people. Reading, by his frankness in conceal- 
ing nothing from them and by his sympathetic understand- 
ing that they are harassed day by day by the Allies for money 
and also by politicians and press, will, I am convinced, be 
able to achieve all that is humanly possible. 


Lord Reading's success, however, was necessarily limited. 
He tided over a critical situation and secured for the British 
the essential credits. But as the military organization of the 
United States developed, with consequent demands for sup- 
plies from every American department, the difficulty of 
securing supplies for the Allies became greater. The allot- 
ment of available supplies as between the Allied armies and 
the new American force was becoming a nice problem. ' I 
foresee that there may be a dangerous interval, possibly next 
summer,' wrote Wiseman, 'between the time when we run 
short of necessary supplies owing to the American pro- 
gramme, and the time when the United States army is ready 
to take a big part on the Western Front.' 

Lord Reading refused to admit discouragement, but in- 
sisted that a more complete system of coordination must be 
found. On October 29 he left with House the copy of a 
memorandum which, as he cabled to England, summarized 
the general impressions formed 'after a long series of conver- 
sations with the Administration and others, including the 
President, Lansing, McAdoo, and House, and winding up 
with a long conference between ourselves, French representa- 
tives, and Crosby, 1 representing the United States Treasury, 

1 Oscar T. Crosby, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. 


at which the latter set forth at length the details of the 
United States financial position. What I say about finance/ 
he added, 'should be read in close conjunction with my 
political impressions. 9 The summary is historically of value 
as giving a picture of American conditions drawn by one in 
close touch with them but written from a detached point 
of view. 

Reading Memorandum on Supplies 

October. 1917 

'Criticism comes naturally from two opposed quarters. 
There is the type of opinion represented by Roosevelt to the 
effect that the Administration is very ill-organized for war 
(in which there is a good deal of truth) and that they are not 
throwing themselves into the business of preparation with 
sufficient energy (which is by no means so true). On the 
other hand, there is an undercurrent of suspicion in other 
quarters as to the extent of America's real interest in the 
war and as to the aims and methods of the European Allies, 
not only as regards the ultimate objects of the war, but also 
as to whether they are not sometimes using their American 
credits for other than strictly war purposes. 

'These two opposed currents tend to drive the Adminis- 
tration in the same direction, namely, to emphasize the im- 
portance of the part America is going to play rather than 
that of the part the Allies are already playing, and to run 
the American programme to the possible detriment of the 
Allied programmes. This meets both lines of attack. It 
satisfies the forward party and it takes away from the 
others the charge that America is becoming a tool of the 
Allies. . . . 

"A vast programme of military preparations, aviation, and 
shipbuilding has now passed Congress and during the past 
week Departments concerned have received their definite 
appropriations. This programme has been built up piece- 


meal by each Department securing approval for what is 
conceived to be its needs, without coordination or effective 
control on the part of the Treasury. It has also been drawn 
up without regard to the effect on existing programmes of 
Allies or to the date at which these preparations can become 
effective as compared with the programmes of the Allies. 
Mr. Crosby did not defend this as being a wise or far-seeing 
course, but notified it to us as being what was rapidly becom- 
ing an accomplished fact. As a result the actual cash out- 
goings of the United States Treasury are already at the rate 
of $600,000,000 a month, apart from advances to Allies, and 
are expected to reach $1,000,000,000 monthly beginning with 
October. He explained that the Departments are not per- 
mitted by law to make advance payments, but in lieu of this 
they pay the contractors for the raw materials as soon as 
they are purchased and also for the value of the work put 
into them as it accrues week by week. These cash outgoings 
begin as soon as the contracts are placed and are not post- 
poned pending delivery of the finished article. Advances to 
the Allies, which have been authorized at a maximum aver- 
age monthly rate of $500,000,000, have to be added to the 
above. The proceeds of the new war taxation on the other 
hand will not accrue to the Treasury until next year and the 
increases over normal revenue immediately available are 
only $50,000,000 monthly. 

'It is, of course, much too soon to say that the impossible 
will not be achieved. But however this turns out, the three 
factors following are likely to govern the situation here for 
the months immediately in front of us: 

' (A) The officials of the United States Treasury are 
nervous and oppressed. Pending the result of the forth- 
coming Liberty loan and even thereafter they will hesitate 
to commit themselves. I believe that for the present we 
shall always get our money in the end, but it will probably 
be at the expense of constant importunity and some anxiety. 


Nothing will be clear-cut, and each Ally will be struggling 
for itself. A time will probably come when we shall have to 
ask the Treasury to take risks which will appear unjustifiable 
from the strictly financial standpoint. 

' (B) Mr. Crosby stated plainly that the requirements of 
their own Departments must come first. Any shortage of 
funds, therefore, will fall mainly on the Allies. 

' (C) I told Mr. Crosby that what will save the United 
States Treasury, as it has saved ours in the past, will be the 
material limitations on what it is possible to buy. Goods 
will not in fact be forthcoming on a sufficient scale to absorb 
the vast credits to which the Departments and the Allies are 
becoming entitled. This will save the financial position. But 
the same trouble will crop up in another form. The Ministry 
of Munitions is more likely to be embarrassed by shortage of 
supplies from America than is the Treasury by shortage of 

' In short, considerations of politics and finance combine to 
enforce the view that America will put her own needs first 
and . . . the material resources of this Continent may not 
be equal to the new programme which it is sought to super- 
impose on the old. The growing lack of coordination between 
the programme of the Administration here and the pro- 
gramme of the Allies is probably, on every ground, the big- 
gest question in front of us. But I have some reason to 
believe that the matter is engaging the attention of the Ad- 
ministration and I shall take any further opportunity of em- 
phasizing to the President the risks lest hastily considered 
orders by United States War Departments spoil our effi- 
ciency before they themselves are ready. I invite the par- 
ticular attention of the Minister of Munitions to the danger 
of his preparations becoming ill-balanced in so far as he 
depends on American supplies and urge him to lay his plans 
so far as possible without too great reliance on the resources 
of the United States. 


'I shall see our friend [Colonel House] again within next 
few days and shall discuss the whole question with him/ 


This important paper, with the Qminous phrase, 'growing 
lack of coordination,' was sent to the British War Cabinet 
and doubtless impressed upon them a lively appreciation of 
the need of drastic measures to meet the danger. The United 
States officials must be made to see that American help 
would be more efficient if applied to the already existing 
armies of the Allies, and the Allied programme must be 
made sufficiently definite to permit the Americans to work 
toward it intelligently. So much Wiseman emphasized in a 
supplementary message. 

* Partly to develop a war spirit throughout the country,' 
he wrote, 'and partly in all sincerity, the Government has 
very naturally adopted the attitude described by the slogan 
"America first," and has fomented the national tendency to 
exaggerate the part America is to play. This must not be 
interpreted as an undervaluation of the Allies, or a miscon- 
ception of their part, nor does it imply the slightest hostility 
towards them. America's own requirements will come first, 
but there is no reason to fear that the American programme 
will interfere with those of the Allies to the common detri- 
ment, provided we also have a clear-cut programme and can 
tell the Americans clearly what our needs are/ 

The general council of the Allies on war purchases and 
finances, which Mr. McAdoo had demanded early in the 
summer, would have gone far toward meeting the condi- 
tions essential to effective American economic cooperation. 
But the formation of this council was still delayed. Pending 
its organization, Lord Reading suggested that the United 
States send to Europe a mission composed of the heads of 


the more important departments or war-making agencies, to 
study the main problems of the European Allies at close 
range. Mr. Lloyd George asked him and Sir William Wise- 
man to present the proposal to Colonel House for discussion 
with President Wilson. 

Sir William Wiseman to Colonel House 

NEW YORK September 26, 1917 


. . . You know that I try to look at everything as much in 
the interests of the United States as of my own country, 
because I believe that what is good for the one is good for the 
other. You will not mind, then, if I seem to be giving un- 
solicited advice to America. . . 

I believe the greatest asset Germany has to-day is the 
3000 miles that separates London from Washington, and the 
most urgent problem we have to solve is how our two Gov- 
ernments, set at opposite ends of the world, can effect the 
close cooperation which is undoubtedly necessary if the war 
is to be quickly and successfully ended. Would the President 
consider the advisability of sending plenipotentiary envoys 
to London and Paris, with the object of taking part in the 
next great Allied Council, bringing their fresh minds to 
bear on our problems, discussing and giving their judg- 
ment on some of the questions I have raised, and also to ar- 
range if that be possible for some machinery to bridge 
over the distance between Washington and the theatre of 

May I be allowed to add that our leaders have told me of 
their confidence in you and their respect for your judgment. 
It is to you, therefore, that we turn for counsel in a matter 
which would be very difficult to approach through the ordi- 
nary diplomatic channels. 

Yours very truly 



The despatch of an American War Mission to Europe was 
desired by Mr. Lloyd George, not merely because of the need 
of better economic coordination but also for military reasons. 
The Prime Minister had long chafed at the strategy of the 
military leaders on the Western Front which, while it under- 
mined the ultimate strength of Germany, was appalling in 
its immediate cost. The long-drawn-out process of the 
guerre d'usure seemed to him unnecessarily wasteful of lives 
and of time. Instead of throwing Allied forces directly 
against the strongest enemy, Germany, at the strongest part 
of its defenses, he wished to strike at the weaker members 
of the opposing alliance: * knock down the props/ 

What he had in mind was the establishment of a new inter- 
allied military organization which would, under unified direc- 
tion, give up the battering of the Western Front and launch 
a coordinated attack against the weakest point of the central 
alliance. * There is no doubt,' wrote Sir William Robertson, 
'that had Mr. Lloyd George's wishes prevailed at this period 
the main British effort would have been transferred from 
France to Italy, just as in January, 1915, he wished to trans- 
fer it to the Balkans.' l 

The British Chief of Staff and Sir Douglas Haig were 
steadily skeptical of the practical feasibility of such a stra- 
tegic plan, since, as they maintained, it would be impossible 
effectively to emphasize the 'side shows' without imperiling 
the main battlefield in France. 'The General Staff continued 
to assert,' wrote Robertson, 'that the main road to victory 
lay straight ahead, across the Rhine, while Mr. Lloyd 
George insisted that that road was too hard, and that the 
best one lay, if not via Italy, Trieste, and Vienna, then 
via the Mediterranean, Jerusalem, and Constantinople. 
Throughout 1917 this dead-weight of disagreement had 
grievously hampered the management of the different 
campaigns in which we were engaged; increased the dif- 

1 Sir William Robertson, Soldiers and Statesmen, 11, 251. 


ficulty of securing concerted action between the Allied 
armies.' l 

Above all Mr. Lloyd George insisted upon the necessity 
of unified direction of military policy in all the fields of com- 
bat, and it was to this end that he planned an interallied 
staff superior to the commanders-in-chief and the chiefs of 
staff of each individual army. In this plan he was encouraged 
by Sir Henry Wilson, to whom should be given much of the 
credit for the final achievement of allied military coordina- 
tion. Sir Henry described in his diary a conversation with 
Mr. Lloyd George on August 23, in which he sketched the 
main lines of the organization which later became the Su- 
preme War Council: 

'I then disclosed my plan of three Prime Ministers and 
three soldiers, to be over all C.I.G.S.'s 2 and to draw up plans 
for the whole theatre from Nieuport to Baghdad. I told him 
[Lloyd George] that I had had this plan in mind for two and 
a half years, and I made it clear that it was not aimed at 
Robertson, or Haig, or anybody. I told him that if he was 
to remove Robertson, now, and to place me as C.I.G.S., I 
would still press for my plan, as being the only one which 
would allow us really to draw up a combined plan of opera- 

'He was distinctly taken. He explained the position as 
follows: He was satisfied with Haig, but dissatisfied with 
Robertson. He was quite clear in his mind that we were not 
winning the war by our present plans, and that we never 
should on our present lines; but he did not know how, or 
what we should do, and he had no means of checking or 
altering Robertson's and Haig's plans, though he knew they 
were too parochial. He said that he was not in the position, 
nor had he the knowledge, to bring out alternative plans and 

1 Robertson, op. cit. 9 n, 265. 
3 Chiefs of Staff. 


to insist upon their adoption, as it would always be said that 
he was overruling the soldiers. It was because of his profound 
disgust that he had thought of forming a committee of 
Johnnie [Lord French] and me and another, but he now quite 
agreed with me that that would not work and that my plan 
was infinitely better. . . . Altogether he rose well at my 
proposals/ l 

If the Prime Minister were to forward those plans success- 
fully, the support of the United States would be of im- 
portance, especially in view of the problem of man-power. 
Mr. Lloyd George accordingly commissioned Sir William 
Wiseman to explain the various elements in the situation to 
Colonel House. The British had been told by House that 
President Wilson would support any plan which promised 
to achieve Allied unity, and Lloyd George may have hoped 
to receive from an American mission support for his 'East- 
ern' strategy. House brought the matter to the President's 
attention when the latter visited New York in the Mayflower 
in mid-September. 

Mr. David Lloyd George to Colonel House 

LONDON, September 4, 1917 


I have to thank you for the letter you sent me through Sir 
William Wiseman. I have talked things over with him with 
the special purpose that he should explain to you what I 
think about the present situation. He will go straight to see 
you on arrival. Very briefly I think it is essential to the cause 
of the Allies that a representative of the United States of the 
first rank should come over here officially as soon as possible 
to take part in the deliberations of the Allies over their 
future plans of campaign. Needless to say it would be a 
source of the utmost satisfaction to us if you were to come 
yourself. Sir William Wiseman will be able to tell you why 

1 Callwell, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, ii, 10-11. 


I believe that a representative of the United States could 
render invaluable services to the Allied cause. 

Yours sincerely 


'September 16, 1917: To-day I lunched with the President 
on board the Mayflower, 9 wrote Colonel House. 'We had a 
talk before lunch. I told him of Lloyd George's desire that 
a representative from the United States be sent to the Inter- 
allied Conference 

'The President thought he could not go much further 
toward meeting Lloyd George's wishes than to express a 
feeling that something different should be done in the con- 
duct of the war than had been done, and to say that the 
American people would not be willing to continue an in- 
definite trench warfare. He thought it would be inadvisable 
to commit himself further ' 

Colonel House to Mr. David Lloyd George 

NEW YORK, September 24, 1917 


Thank you for the messages and information which came 
through the Lord Chief Justice and Sir William Wiseman. 
The President has the several matters under advisement and 
I hope will come to a conclusion this week. 

I have sent you word through Sir William as to what I 
think of the plan you suggest. I favored it nearly two years 
ago and, unless conditions have changed so as to make it 
impossible, it still seems worthy of our earnest consideration. 

The coming of the Lord Chief Justice has already resulted 
in good. Lord Northcliffe is helping to make his visit a 
success, and I am sure your sending him will be justified. 

I have told the President that I was willing to go over in 
the event he thought well of the plan, although I have work 
of pressing importance here. I have suggested in lieu of 


myself the sending of Secretaries McAdoo and Baker. In 
some ways, this would be better, for they could obtain so 
much information that would be useful in their several 

Sincerely yours 


Wilson's unwillingness to express any opinion upon mat- 
ters of strategy resulted from a natural feeling that the 
United States ought not to exert any influence in military 
councils until they had an army in the field. But he appre- 
ciated clearly the need of better economic coordination, and 
if this end could best be achieved through an American mis- 
sion he was disposed to approve it. 

Besides finance and supplies, the questions of shipping and 
of blockade had become critical. All through the summer 
Lord Northcliffe had insisted upon the vital importance of 
the tonnage problem. 'The Prime Minister feels,' he told 
Colonel House on August 14, 'that the speedy turning out 
of tonnage is to-day absolutely the first war need. The War 
Cabinet decided on August 9 to devote to the construction 
of vessels all the steel plates which can be used, in spite of 
the fact that this will involve a reduction in the output of 
shells. It was also decided to release men from the munitions 
works and from the army for the necessary labor/ 

The tonnage question had become and was to remain for 
nine months, in a certain sense, the central problem of Ameri- 
can cooperation. As Medill McCormick wrote to House, 'It 
is of no use to levy great armies if there is to be no shipping 
to transport them, and what is more important, to supply 
the wants of the civil populations and the armies of our 

A memorandum which the British sent House in the sum- 
mer indicated that the first six months of the intensive sub- 
marine warfare had destroyed more than two and a quarter 


million tons of British and a million and a half tons of Allied 
and neutral shipping. Taking into account the boats par- 
tially damaged and the new submarines built, which more 
than made up for those destroyed, it was estimated that the 
net loss, despite the best effort of British shipbuilders, would 
be over 350,000 tons a month. As the autumn passed, the 
Allies became more anxious. Could American shipyards 
make good this deficit? 

Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 

LONDON, October 11, 1917 

I would be grateful if you will allow me to put before you 
the following facts with regard to the shipping situation, for 
your very careful attention: 

In the first two and a half years of the war the total re- 
duction of tonnage in the world due to the enemy's activities 
amounted to approximately four and a half million tons. 
Seven months of ruthless submarine warfare increased the 
above reduction by an additional four and a quarter million 

If to the average rate of destruction of shipping during 
this intensive campaign is added the decrease of tonnage 
caused, firstly, by the incapacitation of ships which are badly 
damaged without being a total loss, and secondly, by ordi- 
nary misadventures at sea, it is permissible to estimate the 
total reduction in the tonnage of the world during a year 
as in the neighbourhood of eight million tons. . . . 

To offset this reduction England, who last year reduced 
shipbuilding to the production of about six hundred thousand 
tons in order to direct her energies into other channels, is 
now bending every effort to construct two and a half million 
tons next year, though it is to be feared that it will not be 
possible to fully reach this figure. 

If the present rate of destruction is maintained Great 


Britain's production of shipping added to that of the rest 
of the world excepting America will yet leave a minimum 
yearly deficit of five and a half million tons. 

The situation is rendered more serious by the fact, well 
known to you, that, without taking into consideration future 
losses, available tonnage is far from sufficient to fill the 
civilian and military needs of the Allies. 

Tonnage conditions will be the deciding factor in the 
extent of spring operations in every theatre of war. 

England now considers it important to clearly state that 
she sees no possibility of carrying on her military and naval 
part in the war, transporting civilian and military supplies 
in British bottoms and continuing to furnish her Allies with 
as many ships as in the past. 

The present great need for coal and food in Italy and 
France will become more serious in the spring. 

British ships will also be lacking to furnish the supplies 
which Russia may want during the season next year when 
the port of Archangel is open. 

At the same time, America will be confronted by the great 
problems presented by the transportation of her forces and 
the supplies for them. 

In view of all the above circumstances, I suggest for your 
consideration the possibility of the adoption by the United 
States of plans for the construction of sufficient tonnage to 
offset the loss by submarine attack at the present rate. This 
would mean the construction of approximately six million 
tons per annum. 

The effort that such a programme implies is enormous, 
but you will recollect that if England is unable to adopt 
such a programme it is because her energies are committed 
in those other directions into which they were turned, in 
common with those of her Allies, in the early days of the war 
under the immediate necessity of providing for increasing 
armies and navies and the munitions for both. Less effort 


than that thus expended would have sufficed to produce 
more ships than submarines destroy, even when most active. 
It was not until 1916 that the mercantile marine became as 
important as armies, navies, and munitions. 

America, with resources of industry and engineering su- 
perior to those of any other country, joined the war at this 
stage. The expenditure of strength necessary to nullify the 
loss of shipping, though very great, is relatively less than 
that made by the Allies with success to meet other emer- 
gencies. The programme outlined above means the employ- 
ment of three and a half million tons of steel, which is not 
even ten per cent of the production of the United States, and 
the work of half a million men, only a minority of whom 
need be skilled workmen. 

Even before any ships were launched, the definite adoption 
and vigorous prosecution of a scheme such as the one out- 
lined would in all probability affect the enemy's hopes and, 
consequently, his powers of endurance in an entirely dis- 
proportionate manner. Such a programme would, of course, 
not provide the requisite number of bottoms by next spring, 
but the very fact that they were under construction would 
permit of freer use of those available and would be of in- 
valuable help to tide over the critical time coming before the 
harvests of 1918. 

Although in the last few weeks the loss of tonnage has been 
greatly reduced, it is not yet certain that this diminution 
will be sustained and it consequently would be most im- 
prudent to take this improvement into consideration as a 
factor in calculations looking to the adoption of a permanent 
policy. I cannot, therefore, lay too great a stress on the 
grave possibility that the superior efforts being made by all 
the Allies in various other directions may be set at naught 
by inadequate provision for making good the loss of tonnage. 

It is of paramount importance that adequate arrange- 
ments should be made for provisioning and transporting the 


powerful army America is preparing, without reducing the 
tonnage now devoted to supplying the Allied forces already 
engaged, lest such reduction should weaken them in the same 
proportion that the American army will strengthen them. 


Another problem which could be settled only through 
achieving complete cooperation forced itself upon President 
Wilson. This was the question of embargo policy as it related 
to neutrals. Allied restrictions upon neutral trade had led 
to the most acute discontent and the most vigorous protests 
on the part of the United States, previous to our participa- 
tion in the war. After entering the struggle against Ger- 
many, the American Government naturally changed its 
point of view and in its efforts to prevent goods from entering 
Germany rather improved upon the strictness of Allied 
measures. Relations with Holland and the Scandinavian 
countries became strained, and for a time it seemed possible 
that Sweden might be forced into the war. 

On September 15 Mr. Balfour cabled House underlining 
the importance of establishing an Allied blockade council in 
London and the desirability of including American repre- 
sentatives who might give the authoritative views of the 
United States Government. 1 The Allies wished to define and 
coordinate their policy regarding embargoes upon imports 
to the border neutrals, and the delicacy of the questions in- 
volved made it impossible to decide them satisfactorily by 

Mr. Wilson pressed for more information, especially as to 
what was expected from the United States. The British re- 
plied that it was necessary first to organize machinery for the 
coordination of the export licensing system of all the nations 
at war with Germany. In the second place, it was necessary 
to take decisions on matters of high policy; to acquire infor- 

1 Balfour to House, September 15, 1917. 


mation available in London as to the probable effects of a 
rigorous restriction of exports to neutrals; and generally to 
estimate the safety or danger of a policy of embargoes in 
connection with the prosecution of the war. There was, 
according to the message sent to Wilson, no British official 
in Washington capable of answering the searching questions 
that would arise under the head of general policy. The only 
solution of these difficulties appeared to be a direct confer- 
ence in London with authorized representatives of the 
United States. 


According to the testimony of Sir William Wiseman, 
Colonel House worked steadily for the despatch of an 
American War Mission to Europe. In a later memorandum 
he wrote: * House realized the confusion that had set in 
owing to the conflicting demands for material and supplies. 
These could not properly be coordinated in Washington so 
far away from the scene of operations, and, on the other 
hand, there was no one in Europe who could speak with any 
authority for the United States Government. House con- 
ceived the idea of an American Mission representing all the 
great Departments of the Government concerned in the 
conduct of the war; that this Mission should sit in council 
with the Allies in Paris, and lay out a plan of coordination, 
and that representatives of the Mission should remain in 
Europe to see that the work was properly carried out.' 

The evidence is clear that, although House urged the 
Mission, he did not himself wish to accompany it. His organ- 
ization of the Inquiry was just beginning and his interest in 
the final settlement was much greater than in administrative 
problems connected with the war. The informal help he gave 
to the Allies in the United States was presumably greater 
than he could render on a formal mission. He had seen a 
cable from Drummond which stated that Balfour 'thinks 


that though visit from House would be most welcome and 
useful, the advantage for us lies in his continued presence in 
the United States, where his help is inestimable.' The 
Colonel suggested to Wilson that he put the Mission in 
charge of the heads of the two most important departments 
concerned. 'What would you think of McAdoo and Baker? * l 

On the other hand, the British and French leaders, aside 
from Mr. Balfour, made clear their conviction that the pro- 
posed Mission should be headed by Colonel House. The 
British War Cabinet notified Wiseman that they felt 'that 
in view of the forthcoming international conference it was 
of great importance that a man in the complete confidence 
of the President should visit Western Europe in order to 
obtain first-hand information in regard to the position of the 
Allies, and Colonel House seemed to them the only suitable 

Similar messages came direct from France, of which the 
following is typical. It was sent through Ambassador Jus- 
serand: 'Please tell Colonel House that it is absolutely indis- 
pensable that he should come over, even for a week, on board 
a warship to avoid delay. He must see all the details of the 
situation before plans are definitely adopted/ 

Mr. A. H. Frazier to Colonel House 

PARIS, October 12, 1917 

A report was brought to me a few days ago by a trust- 
worthy person that M. Painlev6, the Prime Minister and 
Minister of War, had expressed the earnest hope that you 
might come to France in the near future. . . . 

In the fourth year of the war, with every one rather weary 
of the whole thing, I seem to notice more signs of lack of 
harmony between the Allies than ever before. As we are the 
most disinterested nation engaged and as we have the con- 

1 House to Wilson, September 24, 1917. 


fidenoe of all the Allies to a greater extent than any other 
country, I believe it is our logical r61e to unite the Allies in 
concerted action and to act as a general harmonizing in- 
fluence. You are far better able to judge than I whether it is 
advisable for you to come to Europe at the present time, but 
I am sure that if you should decide to come now you would 
find a very warm welcome in France. 
Respectfully yours 


Early in October President Wilson decided definitely that 
the proposed American Mission was necessary and that he 
would appoint Colonel House as its head. Sir William Wise- 
man tells the whole in a cable to the Foreign Office. 

Sir William Wiseman to Sir Eric Drummond 

NEW YORK, October 13, 1917 

'Ever since Reading and I arrived in the States, we have 
been urging that the United States Government should send 
fully empowered representatives to London or Paris to deal 
at first-hand with the Allied Governments on the most urgent 
questions which require cooperation. 

'Reading had an interview with the President on the sub- 
ject soon after arrival, and has discussed it on several occa- 
sions with other members of the Administration, while I 
have very frequently discussed it with House, who has been 
in New York. In the meantime invitations and suggestions 
were received from the French and Italian Commissions and 
from various departments of our Government through the 
Embassy and Northcliffe, requesting the United States Gov- 
ernment to send representatives on various matters, particu- 
larly supplies. . . . 

'After several discussions between the President and 
House, and a meeting with Reading yesterday, the President 
said that his policy had been not to send American represen- 


tatives to sit in the councils of the Allies because he felt the 
United States had not enough experience in the war, but on 
the information that we had given him he had changed his 
mind and come to the conclusion that it was necessary for 
the United States to be represented. ... He informed House 
definitely that he would not send any one unless House would 
go, and asked him to proceed to Europe as soon as possible, 
and stay there as special American representative until the 
end of the war. 

'House was very much opposed to going at all, because he 
has devoted all his energies to the subject which interests 
him most, namely: that of peace terms and the American 
case for the Peace Conference. ... As foreshadowed in my 
previous cables he has tried to get the President to send 
either Baker or Lansing or both. Finally he agreed to accept 
the mission provided it was clearly understood that it was to 
be only for the purpose of attending the Interallied War 
Council, and that he would be able to return to the States 
immediately that was finished/ 


Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, October 14, 1917 

I am authorized by French and British Cabinets to extend 
to you a most cordial invitation to take part in conversations 
and conferences on all questions of War and Peace. It is 
with the greatest gratification that they have learnt of the 
probability that this invitation may prove acceptable. I 
cannot speak officially of Italians and Russians, but you may 
safely assume that they share our interests. . . . 



Lord Reading to President Wilson 

WASHINGTON, October 15, 1917 

I communicated the substance of our recent conversation 
to my Government and have to-day received a reply which 
I thought right to bring immediately to your notice. 

I am now authorized by the French and British Govern- 
ments to express their earnest hope that it will prove possible 
for your Government to send a representative to Europe to 
discuss important military and other questions of vital inter- 
est to co-belligerents. My Government has learnt with the 
utmost gratification that the invitation is likely to receive 
your favourable consideration. 

The British Ambassador and I waited upon the Secretary 
of State this morning and conveyed this message to him. I 
understand that the French Ambassador, as the doyen of 
the Diplomatic Corps, will, without delay, present the formal 
invitation to the Secretary of State. 

My Government is also extremely pleased to learn that it 
may hope for the invaluable presence of Colonel House as 
the representative of the United States. 

I am, dear Mr. President, 

Yours sincerely 


These papers are of some historical importance, since they 
furnish an answer to the criticism, later voiced in certain 
American circles, directed against the President's choice of 
a private citizen as head of the first American War Mission. 
The choice was not dictated by personal favoritism, but was 
made with the express endorsement of those who understood 
the situation in Europe and the problems which the Ameri- 
can Mission would have to meet. 



In discussing the character of American representation in 
Allied councils, House had asked Wiseman to draft for the 
President a memorandum outlining the desires of the Allies. 
There were three councils planned in which the United 
States ought to be represented. Sir William described them 
for Wilson and House as follows: 

Wiseman Memorandum on Interallied Cooperation 

NEW YORK, October 10, 1917 

1. The Allied Council of War. 1 

'This council is composed of representatives of the Allied 
Governments including naval and military representatives. 
This council has met before and will meet again whenever it 
is found necessary. The members of the council have su- 
preme authority from their Governments to discuss the 
political aims of the Allies and the various military objectives 
which may help to realize these aims. The next meeting of 
this council is fixed for October 15th in Paris, and the most 
important matter which will be discussed at this meeting of 
the council is the military strategy to be employed by the 
Allies in the coming year, as, in modern warfare on as large 
a scale as the present war, it is necessary to determine the 
military strategy and lay out plans at least six months before 
they can come to fruition. 

'It is necessary, therefore, for the Allies to meet within 
the next few weeks and settle the military plans which they 
hope to carry out successfully next spring and summer. It 
was this council which was referred to in the letter which the 
President received. It would be possible, of course, for 

1 Sir William's term 'Council of War,' to describe the general confer- 
ences of the Allies, should not be interpreted to mean that there was any 
real cooperative organization. It was precisely to meet the lack of such 
an organization that the Supreme War Council was created at Rapallo on 
November 7. 


American representatives to attend this council and return 
to Washington when the council had concluded its session. 
The meeting now fixed for the 15th of October could not be 
postponed, but it would be quite possible for the meeting to 
adjourn to a future date in order to await the arrival of the 
American representatives. 

'2. The Interallied Council. 

'This council has not been formed, but the subject has 
been under discussion for some months and was first sug- 
gested by Mr. McAdoo. The object of this council would be 
to regulate supplies amongst the Allies. All requisitions 
made on behalf of any of the Allied Governments for money, 
munitions of war, food, shipping, coal, etc., would be passed 
upon by this council. The purpose would be to determine 
which requisition ought to have priority for the good of the 
common cause. It is suggested that the council should sit in 
London, but that the section dealing with finance should be 
located in Paris. This council would, of course, sit perma- 
nently until the end of the war. 

'3. The Joint Embargo or Blockade Council. 

'This council is not yet in existence, but it would be in- 
tended to provide effective machinery to carry out joint 
negotiations with neutral countries. The Exports Board at 
Washington is already acting informally with the British and 
French experts. The proposed council would ensure that 
British blockade measures should not clash with the policy 
of the American Government. The main business of the 
council would be to regulate supplies to neutral countries. 
This council would also sit permanently until the end of the 
war, but would have its headquarters in London/ 

Wiseman was insistent, and Colonel House agreed with 
him, that the latter should make it plain that his visit was 
temporary and that he would not take direct charge of the 
work of coordinating the problems of finance, supply, ship- 


ping, and embargo, which ought to be left in the care of the 
chiefs of the different war boards. His functions would be to 
represent the United States in the discussion of general policy 
in the main council and to arrange for a mechanism to decide 
technical questions. Wiseman wrote House definitely on this 
point, for at first Wilson seemed inclined to give House 
direct charge of all matters of coordination, and even to 
appoint a permanent American Commission with offices in 

Sir William Wiseman to Colonel House 

NEW YORK, October 10, 1917 

... It must be quite clear that the three councils are en- 
tirely separate and do not in any way depend on one another. 
. . . The British Government, and I am quite sure the French 
and Italian agree with us, want you to attend council number 
one as the American representative. We also want American 
representatives on councils two and three, but I feel strongly 
that you ought not to be concerned with the operations of 
two and three. When we first suggested that you come to 
Europe to attend council number one we naturally thought 
of it as a temporary visit because, of course, this council 
would not sit for more than a week or so. ... 

I believe that if you . . . stay in Europe to the end of the 
war you cannot avoid dealing with all the problems that 
arise after they have reached a certain point of importance. 
It would seem to me better to face the situation from the out- 
set and realize that your Government is taking a very im- 
portant step [in planning a permanent American Mission to 
Europe]. In my opinion it is no less than shifting the centre of 
gravity of the war from Washington to London and Paris. . . . 

From the point of view of carrying on the war most effec- 
tively I have no doubt that it would be best to send a pey- 
manent American Commission with offices in both London 


and Paris. The Commission should have both naval and 
military representatives on all the three councils we have 
mentioned. This, in my opinion, is the only practicable and 
effective way of getting cooperation, but there remain the 
two difficulties to be overcome. In the first place, you must 
contemplate delegating an important part of the American 
Government to the Commission; and secondly, you must 
consider whether, if you go as head of the Commission, it 
would be possible for you to keep clear of the many vital 
problems which arise daily in the cooperation of the Allies, 
and devote sufficient time to those problems which are really 
the most important and which you have made your par- 
ticular study. 

Believe me 

Yours very sincerely 


* Shifting the center of gravity of the war from Washington 
to London and Paris' was quite contrary to Wilson's deter- 
mination to preserve American independence of action and 
policy. He decided, therefore, that there should be no per- 
manent general American Commission in Europe, but that 
House should take with him representatives of the different 
supply boards and of the army and navy, to discuss with 
their 'opposites' in England and France the technique of co- 
ordination. On the other hand, as soon as the Allies learned 
of the decision to send House, they agreed to adjourn the 
meeting of the main council until his arrival in Europe. 

President Wilson wrote to House, on October 8, that he 
was ready to take up the important matters we ought to 
confer about. Any time you name this week would be con- 
venient, if you will come down, and I hope that it may be 

soon. With affectionate messages 1 Colonel House went 

to Washington the following day. 

1 WUson to House, October 8, 1917. 


1 October 13, 1917: I have had three or four strenuous 

days. The White House motor met us The President 

was over at the offices, having just finished a Cabinet 

c The President and I had no conversations at lunch or 
dinner, but after dinner we went into executive session until 
ten o'clock. We threshed out the question of my going 
abroad to represent the United States at the Allied War 
Council. . . . Wiseman has pointed out the danger of trans- 
ferring the center of gravity from this country to Europe. 
He believes this is inevitable if I go abroad to remain as long 
as the President has in mind, and take with me a military, 
naval, and economic staff. 

'This shook the President because he has no intention of 
loosening his hold on the situation. . . . 

'Reading came at noon and remained for an hour 

Reading knew what the President intended to propose, and 
the President knew what Reading expected. He seemed 
pleased with the President's reception. I walked to the door 
with him and he asked me to meet him at five o'clock at the 
British Embassy for a further conference 

'I have made it clear to both the British and French 
Governments that we wish to go in the simplest way pos- 
sible. There must be no banquets, no receptions, but merely 
conferences to transact business as speedily as possible. 

'At our conference Tuesday night, the President author- 
ized me to see both Baker and Daniels and tell them of our 
plans and ask them to suggest suitable military and naval 
officers to accompany me. The President thought General 
Bliss, Chief of Staff, would be the proper man to represent 
the Army, in which Baker later readily acquiesced. Baker 
sent for Bliss while I was at the War Department, and the 
three of us had some talk upon the subject. When I visited 
the Navy Department, Daniels suggested Admiral Ben- 
son. . . / 


Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, October 16, 1917 


... I hope you will send Vance McCormick l over with me 
to look into the British methods regarding the embargo. It 
would please them 'to have him come, and it could not 
fail to be of value to us in working out this problem over 

Affectionately yours 


'October 19, 1917: The French Ambassador called un- 
expectedly to convey an invitation from the British, French, 
and Italian Governments to attend the War Council in 
Paris. He said I would be the only representative in the 
Council who was not a high official; that the Prime Min- 
isters and Foreign Secretaries of all the Allied Nations would 
be present with the exception of Russia, which now has no 
stable government. . . . 

* Jusserand promised to cable his Government requesting 
that no official or private entertainments be given, at least 
until the conference ends. 

'October 21, 1917: The Russian Ambassador called at 9.30. 
He came to say that it was essential for the War Council 
which is to meet in Paris to recognize Russia's political as 
well as her war needs. He believes it would strengthen the 
present government and perhaps enable it to maintain itself. 
It is evident that the Russians feel they are in bad repute 
with the other Allies 

'October 23, 1917: The President decided this morning 
that it would be well for me to take over representatives 
of the Army, Navy, Munitions, Food, Finances, Shipping, 
and Embargo. When he first asked me to go on this trip 
he wished me to go alone. I had some difficulty in per- 

1 Chairman of the War Trade Board. 


suading him that I could not possibly confer with the heads 
of the Allied Governments on matters of policy, and in ad- 
dition confer with the War, Navy, Treasury, Shipping, Mu- 
nitions, Food, and Embargo Departments of those Govern- 

'It took the better part of the day seeing the proposed 
staff and explaining the purposes of the trip. Admiral Ben- 
son has arranged for the transportation. We are to have two 
cruisers and a destroyer, and we are to be met at the danger 
zone with four other destroyers. 

'October 24, 1917: [Conversation with Wilson.] He out- 
lined a "letter of marque" for me to use with the Govern- 
ments of Great Britain, France, and Italy. Neither of us 
knew how it should be addressed, whether to the sovereigns 
or prime ministers. It was decided to consult the State 
Department to-day, which I have done. Lansing thinks, 
since the invitation came to participate in the War Council 
through the French Ambassador, Dean of the Diplomatic 
Corps, that the acceptance should go through the same chan- 
nel. Therefore the President wrote a letter to the Secretary 
of State, asking him to inform the French Ambassador that 
he was pleased to accept the invitation of the Allied Govern- 
ments to participate in the War Council and that he had 
commissioned me to represent him. He decided that I should 
also keep the letter he wrote last night addressed to the 
Prime Ministers, even though that was not the proper pro- 
cedure. . . .' 


The American Government made plain its expectation 
that the Mission would be devoted entirely to business. 
Reading sent word to the Prime Minister: 'House desires 
no public functions. His visit must be regarded as exclu- 
sively devoted to affairs of state. 5 

'House is very insistent/ wrote Wiseman to the Foreign 


Office, 'on not having any public banquets or lunches; at any 
rate, none which he has to attend personally. You know 
that he is not strong physically and has a perfect horror of 
public functions. I presume some of the other members of 
the Commission could make the few necessary speeches and 
appearances at lunches, but you should be very careful to 
keep House out of anything of that sort. 

'May I remind you that the Americans hate cold houses, 
and it is important that the places should be steam-heated, 
as they do not think fires are enough ' 

On October 24, House received from the President what 
he called his 'letter of marque' for presentation to the Allied 
Governments, an interesting document since it gave him 
practically a power of attorney for Mr. Wilson. As it turned 
out, the credentials were never presented. House's position 
rested upon something far less tangible than letters patent 
and something far more effective: the confidence of the 
President of the United States, who by reason of his office 
was for the moment the most powerful individual in the 

Official Credentials 

WASHINGTON, October 24, 1917 

I have taken the liberty of commissioning my friend, Mr. 
Edward M. House, the bearer of this letter, to represent me 
in the general conference presently to be held by the Govern- 
ments associated in war with the Central Powers, and in any 
other conferences he may be invited and thinks it best to 
take part in for the purpose of contributing what he can to 
the clarification of common counsel, the concerting of the 
best possible plans of action, and the establishment of the 
most effective methods of cooperation. I bespeak for him 
your generous consideration. 



far *! jrottr |tntroai oditUtrttittu 

fltfc (rett rMpot, Md ik 0it tat 
hpt tut osr oout tffortt till lti tt 
aa< dtolair 


'he Prli* Mialittrt of Great Britain, Fra*^' 

.oi Italy. 


With great respect, and the most earnest hope that our 
common efforts will lead to an early and decisive victory. 

Sincerely yours 


To the Prime Ministers of 
Great Britain, 
France and 

Wilson closed the covering letter to House: I hate to say 
good-bye. It is an immense comfort to me to have you at 
hand here for counsel and for friendship. But it is right that 
you should go. God bless you and keep you both. My 
thought will follow you all the weeks through, and I hope 
that it will be only weeks that will separate us. 1 

The American War Mission left on October 28 for Halifax, 
there to embark upon the cruisers Huntington and St. Louis. 
It included representatives of all the important war-making 
agencies whose cooperation with those of the Allies had 
become essential. The Navy was represented by Rear Ad- 
miral W. S. Benson, chief of naval operations, an office 
corresponding to the British First Sea Lord, who by his posi- 
tion as well as his ability was inevitably designated as the 
man to discuss naval coordination with the British and 
French. The Army was represented by its highest official 
after the President, the Chief of Staff, General Tasker H. 
Bliss, later distinguished by his service as a member of the 
Supreme War Council and the American Peace Commission. 
Oscar T. Crosby, a graduate of West Point, electrical engineer 
and financier, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, was 
placed in charge of financial problems, aided by the eminent 
metropolitan lawyer, Paul Cravath, as legal adviser. Em- 
bargo and blockade problems were in charge of Vance C. 
McCormick, chairman of the War Trade Board. The Ship- 
ping Board was represented by Bainbridge Colby, and the 

1 Wilson to House, October 24, 1917, 


Food Administration by Alonzo E. Taylor, who, as physio- 
logical chemist, close observer of famine conditions in Eu- 
rope, and assistant to Herbert Hoover, was recognized as an 
outstanding authority. Thomas Nelson Perkins, legal ad- 
viser to the War Industries Board and a member of the 
Priority Board, represented the United States in the discus- 
sions on priority of shipments. It was a distinguished group. 

'October 29, 1917: Our private car was ready for us,' wrote 
House, 'at the Pennsylvania Station last night by ten 
o'clock. Bainbridge Colby and Nelson Perkins were already 
on board. We were picked up at four o'clock in the morning 
by the special train from Washington which is to take our 
party to Halifax 

'No one is allowed to leave the train en route to Halifax. 
X tells me that his wife has not the remotest idea where he 
is going. He merely told her that he was to be absent some 
time on a trip which it was necessary for the moment to keep 
secret. He did not know himself from what port he was to 
embark; in fact, no one [apart from Commander Carter] 
knows this excepting Admiral Benson and myself. 

'November 3, 1917: [On board U.S. Cruiser Huntington.] 
The discussion on shipboard is almost entirely of submarines, 
their methods of working, the way they are to be met, and 
every possible detail of that subject. One is reminded of the 
time when people took ship in earlier days and did nothing 
but discuss pirates and the possibility of being attacked, 
robbed, and sunk by them. 

'November 4, 1917 : The decks have been cleared for action, 
the sitting-room in the rear of our private dining-room is 
now filled with gunners, crews of fourteen each, to operate 
the two stern guns on this deck. There is a constant going in 
and out, both during the day and night, and unless one is a 
good sleeper, as I am, it would be impossible to get much 

Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 

LONDON, November 6, 1917 


A thousand welcomes to our shores. I promise that you 
will not be smothered with hospitality! . . . 
Sincerely yours 


The Mission disembarked safely at Plymouth on Novem- 
ber 7, and was met by Admiral Jellicoe, British First Sea 
Lord, and Admiral Sims. A special train brought them to 
London, where on the platform of Paddington Station, at 
the stroke of midnight, Mr. Balfour and Ambassador Page 
greeted this first manifestation of America's determination 
to achieve cooperative endeavor in waging war. 


General Smuts ... is one of the few men . . . who do not seem tired. He 

is alert, energetic and forceful 

Colonel House's Diary, November 13, 1917 

THE House Mission arrived in Europe at a moment of 
extreme crisis in the fortunes of war. In November, 1917, 
the Allied cause was overshadowed by a double disaster: 
the collapse of the Italian army at Caporetto and the advent 
to power of the Bolsheviks in Russia. The situation was 
perhaps the gravest which the Allies had faced since 1914. 
No longer was it a question, as it had been in the spring, 
how best to defeat Germany; the problem was now, how to 
escape defeat. 

On Wednesday, October 24, the Austrians, reenforced by 
carefully chosen German divisions, attacked Cadorna. 
Aided by the weather, which seemed designed for the Ger- 
man tactics of surprise, General Below broke the Italian 
defense at Caporetto and through the breach the Germans 
poured down on the plain of Friuli. The Second Italian 
Army, 'weary with the autumn offensive, weakened with 
discontent and treason, and shattered by the impact of the 
new tactics, had become a fugitive rabble. . . . Streaming 
back in wild disorder to the Friulian plain, it uncovered the 
Duke of Aosta's flank, and seemed to imprison him between 
the invaders and the Adriatic. The suspicion that treachery 
had in some degree contributed to the disaster was like to 
make the retreat more difficult, for such news spreads like a 
fever among troops and saps their resolution. The huge 
salient had broken at the apex, and every mile of retirement 
on the east meant a complex withdrawal oa the north. Upon 


forces wearied with a long campaign descended in a black 
accumulation every element of peril which had threatened 
Italy since she first drew the sword/ l 

Italy was saved from complete disaster partly through the 
valor and speed of the Third Army under the Duke of Aosta, 
partly because the enemy themselves, surprised by the 
immensity of their triumph, were unready to exploit it. 
By November 10 what was left of the Italian armies was 
behind the Piave, the sole defense for Venice and a poor 
defense at that. Britis^ and French divisions were crossing 
the Alps to stiffen the resistance. But the Italians had lost 
effectives which in a month of fighting reached the appalling 
total of about three quarters of a million men. 

It was just as the House Mission reached England that 
the full magnitude of the Italian disaster was recognized. 
Two days later news came from Petrograd that the Kerensky 
Government had been overthrown, and that on November 8 
Lenin had seized control. Within three weeks the Bolshevist 
dictatorship was firmly established and the Allied leaders 
were brought face to face with the imminent withdrawal of 
Russia from the war. For at the moment of seizing the reins 
of government, the Bolsheviks proposed an armistice to all 
the belligerents, and approved the notable manifesto mark- 
ing the Soviet's first official step towards a * just and demo- 
cratic peace/ Such a peace was defined as 'an immediate 
peace without annexations (that is, without seizure of foreign 
territory, without the forcible annexation of foreign national- 
ities) and without indemnities/ On November 22, Trotsky 
advised the Allied Ambassadors in Petrograd of the Soviet's 
proposals. 'I have the honor to request you,' continued the 
new Commissary for Foreign Affairs, Ho consider the above- 
mentioned document as a formal proposal for an immediate 
armistice on all fronts and the immediate opening of peace 

1 John Buchan, A History of the Great War, iv, 53, 55. 


For some months the Allied leaders had watched the 
disintegration of the military power of Russia and confessed 
that the chance of receiving effective assistance on the East- 
ern Front was slight. But the advent of the Bolsheviks, if it 
resulted in a separate peace, meant that Germany would be 
free to withdraw her troops in great masses from the East 
and resume the position of numerical superiority on the 
Western Front which she had not held since the first days 
of the war. 

The crisis which followed Caporetto and the danger that 
the end of the war in the East would permit Germany to 
concentrate in overwhelming strength in the West, stimu- 
lated Lloyd George to the decision which he had been pon- 
dering for some time, and which he had discussed with Sir 
Henry Wilson in August. If the Allies had been unable to 
win when holding numerical superiority over the enemy, 
what chance had they now, unless they adopted new 
methods? Reliance upon the hammer-and-tongs strategy of 
the General Staff, he argued, had resulted in tremendous 
losses in man-force and no material gains. Allied strength 
had never been pooled, and each army had done what 
seemed right in its own eyes, with the result that one by one 
they had been defeated. The sole hope for the Allies lay in 
regarding the battlefields as a single front and in the estab- 
lishment of unity of command. Lloyd George in a speech at 
Paris on November 12 publicly affirmed the failure of Allied 
military policy, as he reviewed the strategical errors of the 
past three years: 

'It is true we sent forces to Salonika to rescue Serbia, but, 

as usual, they were sent too late Half the men who fell 

in the futile attempt to break through on the Western Front 
in September of that year would have saved Serbia, would 
have saved the Balkans and completed the blockade of 
Germany . . . 1915 was the year of tragedy for Serbia; 1916 


was the year of tragedy for Rumania ... it was the Serbian 

story almost without a variation The Italian disaster 

may yet save the alliance National and professional 

traditions, prestige and susceptibilities all conspired to 
render nugatory our best resolutions. . . . The war has been 
prolonged by sectionalism; it will be shortened by soli- 

The same thought was expressed by the French Prime 
Minister, M. Painlev6, who insisted: 'One Front, One 
Army, One Nation that is the programme of the future 

There was nothing new in this insistence upon the need of 
unified command. Very early in the war the waste involved 
in the lack of central control became obvious; 'the probable 
action of the enemy was inadequately studied and not 
always foreseen; and when measures to meet it had eventu- 
ally to be taken, hurried conferences, panic-decisions, in- 
complete preparations, and conflicting aims were the 
natural result.' l Various schemes were put forward, 
designed to achieve coordination of strategy, but actual 
unity seemed impossible because of the natural unwilling- 
ness of the British to accept a French generalissimo and the 
equally natural assumption by the French that no foreigner 
could command Allied armies fighting on French soil. It is 
true that early in 1917 Mr. Lloyd George agreed to a tempo- 
rary and local arrangement which placed Sir Douglas Haig 
under the orders of General Nivelle, during the course of the 
spring offensive. But the failure of the operations that 
followed merely reaffirmed the opposition of the British 
military leaders to a single supreme command in the hands 
of the French. 'The main result,' wrote General Bliss, 'was 
mutual recrimination and the belief of British troops that 
they had been sacrificed in a hopeless attempt to secure 

1 Sir William Robertson, Soldiers and Statesmen, i, 192. 


effective distribution of those resources among the various 
theaters of operations/ l 

It may have been sound policy to give the new council a 
political character, and it was essential to find a compromise 
between French insistence upon a single military command 
and the British objection to putting their troops under 
foreign control. But the nature of the compromise and the 
vagueness in the definition of the functions of the Supreme 
War Council resulted in misunderstanding and criticism. 
Upon Mr. Lloyd George fell the burden of advocacy of the 
new venture, for the French Ministry was overthrown on 
November 13. M. Painlev6 resigned, and three days later 
the historic Clemenceau Ministry was formed. 2 

In the mean time Mr. Lloyd George hurried back to Eng- 
land to face the parliamentary crisis which followed his 
criticism of the conduct of the war by the professional 
soldiers and which threatened to throw him out of office. 
His task of winning support for the new interallied organi- 
zation was not facilitated by the criticism of the British 
Chief of Staff and that of the British Army Council, which 
raised strong objections to the plan of excluding the Chiefs 
of Staff from the Supreme War Council. 3 * Strange to say,' 
wrote General Bliss, 'in the light of recent experience the 
thing which carried most weight with the public was the 
allegation that a deliberate attempt was being made to 
surrender national for interallied control. This is of no 
consequence now except as showing how little ripe was 
either the civilian or military sentiment for a unified com- 
mand in the field/ 4 

1 Bliss, "The Unified Command/ in Foreign Affairs, December 15, 
1922, p. 6. 

1 Painlevfe's fall was not the result of his advocacy of the Supreme War 
Council, which was approved by a vote of 250-192. His ministry was 
overthrown by a hostile vote, the same day, in the matter of the Malvy- 
Caillaux prosecutions. 

' Robertson, op.cit., i, 216. 4 Bliss,, 7. 



The House Mission was thus greeted upon its arrival in 
Europe by a situation in which the technical problems of 
coordination between the United States and the Allies were 
thrust into the background by the larger question of inter- 
allied unity as a whole. That question must be settled or the 
combination of disasters that threatened the Allies might 
prove fatal. The defection of Russia and the rout of Italian 
armies clouded the entire landscape. The French Govern- 
ment was in dissolution. Whether Mr. Lloyd George him- 
self could maintain his position and his policy of unification 
seemed doubtful. 

It was natural that the British Prime Minister should look 
for the support of the American Mission, which occupied in 
the public mind a position of peculiar importance that was 
indicated by numerous articles in the newspapers, emphasiz- 
ing the resources of the United States. * Colonel House and 
his distinguished colleagues have arrived at the critical 
moment/ said the London Spectator on November 17. 
* Their influence will be invaluable in the somewhat per- 
turbed councils of the Allies/ Mr. Grasty cabled to the New 
York Times, commenting upon the turn of fate that had 
made of House * the bearer of encouragement and reassurance 
to all civilized Europe. . . . Never in history has any for- 
eigner come to Europe and found greater acceptance or 
wielded more power. Behind this super-Ambassador, whose 
authority and activities are unique, stands the President . . . 
and behind the President stands the country whose measure- 
less resources and unshakable will are counted a sure shield 
against the successful sweep of Prussianism.' l 

Returning to London on November 13, Mr. Lloyd George 
invited Colonel House to dinner with him alone the same 
evening. House knew that Wilson desired to assist any 

1 New York Times, November 18, 1917. 


scheme that promised real unity of Allied policy. Whether 
or not he would agree to actual participation in the Supreme 
War Council by United States representatives was less 
certain, although House regarded it as advisable so far as the 
military end of the Council was concerned. 

* November 13, 1917: George wished to explain his attitude 
regarding the Supreme War Council/ wrote House in his 
diary, 'and to convince me that the United States should sit 

in I gave my reasons for thinking it would not be wise 

for us to have a representative who at all times would sit in 
with the Allied Prime Ministers and Ministers for Foreign 
Affairs. I promised to recommend that General Bliss, or 
some other military personage, should sit with the military 
branch of it. George was satisfied with this, but he wished 
me to consent to his making a statement in the House of 
Commons to-morrow that we approved the idea and would 
send a representative. I declined emphatically to permit this 
until it had been submitted to Washington. 

'He said that P6tain and Cadorna thoroughly approve 
the plan. He also said that P6tain does not approve of future 
offensives on the Western Front. If George has his way, and 
if he represents P6tain correctly, there will be no further 
offensives in France, but they will wait until the United 
States can throw her strength on the Allied side or until 
Russia can recover sufficiently to make a drive on the East- 
ern Front. I suggested if we definitely decided upon that 
policy, it might be well to make a public statement. The 
Germans would not receive with enthusiasm the thought 
that the Allies on the Western Front proposed sitting still 
and holding the line until the end of 1918 or the beginning of 
1919, when the United States could bring her full power 
against them. George concurred in this view, but we left it 
for further discussion/ 


Colonel House to the President 


LONDON, November 13, 1917 

The Prime Minister arrived to-day. I dined with him 
alone to-night to have a frank conference. 

The Italian situation is desperate. Venice will fall. 1 French 
and British troops are being rushed to the front and they 
should be ready for action by November twentieth. 

France, England, and Italy have agreed to form a Supreme 
War Council and believe that it is imperative that we should 
be represented in it because of the moral effect that it will 
have here. I am cabling you through the Department a copy 
of the agreement as signed at Rapallo. 

I would advise not having a representative on the civil end 
as designated in Article One, but would strongly urge having 
General Bliss on the military end as described in Article Five. 
It is important that an immediate decision be made as to this 
so that it can be announced that America is in full coordina- 
tion with England, France, and Italy. 

It is necessary to do everything possible at this time to 
encourage our friends here and in France. . . . 

It is not probable that another offensive will be made on 
the French front until the spring, or until the Americans are 
strong enough to give material assistance, or the Russians 
recover sufficiently to resume on the East. It looks like a 
waiting game. I will advise of this further in a later dis- 


The cable sent by Wilson in reply was vigorous and offered 
full support for the Supreme War Council. The cipher cables 
from the President to House were, in accordance with the 
invariable rule of the State Department, put into a para- 

1 House's pessimism was not justified by the event, for Venice was 


phrase when deciphered. It is this paraphrase and not the 
original text of the cable that is published. The paraphrased 
text of the cable to House is as follows: 

Paraphrase of Wilson's Cable to House 

WASHINGTON, November 16, 1917 

Please take the position that we not only approve a con- 
tinuance of the plan for a war council but insist on it. We can 
no more take part in the war successfully without such a 
council than we can lend money without the board Crosby 
went over to join. The War Council, I assume, will event- 
ually take the place of such conferences as you went over to 
take part in, and I hope that you will consider remaining to 
take part in, at any rate, the first deliberations and help in 
the formulating of plans. Baker and I are agreed that Bliss 
should be our military member. . . . 

Colonel House did not hand this text to Mr. Lloyd George 
for use in the House of Commons debate, since he feared that 
President Wilson might appear to be advocating a particular 
plan of achieving Allied unity. In view of the difference of 
opinion that had been raised by the Rapallo Agreement and 
the opposition of influential members of the House of Com- 
mons, including Mr. Asquith, there was danger of the Ameri- 
can President's being involved in an issue of British domestic 
politics. Hence House reparaphrased the cable from Wilson 
so as to avoid committing the President to any specific plan, 
but in such a way as to emphasize his insistence upon the 
principle of Allied unity. 

Published Statement of American War Mission 

'Colonel House . . . has received a cable from the President 
stating emphatically that the Government of the United 
States considers that unity of plan and control between all 


the Allies and the United States is essential in order to achieve 
a just and permanent peace. The President emphasizes the 
fact that this unity must be accomplished if the great re- 
sources of the United States are to be used to the best ad- 
vantage, and he requests Colonel House to confer with the 
heads of the Allied Governments with a view to achieving the 
closest possible cooperation. President Wilson has asked 
Colonel House to attend the first meeting of the Supreme 
War Council with General Bliss ... as the Military Adviser. 
It is hoped that the meeting will take place in Paris before 
the end of this month.' l 

November 17, 1917 : Lloyd George has been after me several 
times to know our decision as to the Supreme War Council. 
If favorable, he desires to announce it in the House of Com- 
mons on Monday. 

'November 18, 1917: 1 was careful in the statement not to 
approve specifically the Lloyd George plan, but I simply ap- 
proved the general idea of unity of action and unity of con- 
trol of resources. Before I consented to give out the state- 
ment, I had Reading telephone George and obtain a definite 
promise from him that there should be a meeting of the 
Supreme War Council held immediately after the general 
Interallied Conference in Paris. I did this to meet the Presi- 
dent's insistence that I should attend at least one meeting. 
Lloyd George readily promised. 

'November 21, 1917: Last night I read to Lloyd George and 
Reading the cable which the President actually sent. Lloyd 
George asked why I had not published it as the President 
sent it rather than diluting it as I did. My reply was that I 
considered it too strong, and while I desired to help I did not 
want to overdo it, which I thought the message in its entirety 
would do/ 

The effect of the President's message was all that the sup- 

1 The Times, November 19, 1917. 


porters of the Rapallo Agreement could hope for. The Times 
devoted a leading article to the promise of American partici- 
pation, and described Wilson's endorsement as 'incompara- 
bly the most important development of the Allied Council 
scheme. ... It is as guarded in tone as it is comprehensive in 
scope It does emphasize unmistakably the central princi- 
ple for which Mr. Lloyd George is standing at this moment 
that "unity of plan and control" which received partial 
recognition at Rapallo.' 

The debate in the House of Commons upon Lloyd George's 
demand for greater unity of control, as expressed in his Paris 
speech and in the creation of the Supreme War Council, took 
place on Monday, November 19. Its importance and the re- 
lation of it to Wilson's cabled message were mirrored in the 

'It is a long time,' said The Times, 'since so much interest 
has been shown in advance in a parliamentary debate as in 
that which takes place in the House of Commons to-day on 
the creation of an Allied War Council and the Prime Minis- 
ter's Paris speech The project of a Vote of Censure, 

which was open to the Opposition, was apparently rejected 
as unwise. Nevertheless, the Government have sent out an 
urgent three-line "whip" to their supporters, and an un- 
usually large attendance of members, judged by war-time 
standards, is expected. . . .' 

'To-night's debate on the Interallied War Council,' said 
the Pall Mall Gazette, 'finds an important prelude in the ac- 
tion of the American Government. President Wilson avows 
his strong conviction that "unity of plan and control" must 
link the United States with all the other Allies, and he has 
accordingly commissioned Colonel House to attend the first 
meeting of the new Council along with the American Chief of 
Staff. America, in short, claims her place in the concentra- 
tion of method and force which some critics of the British 


Government are still denouncing as impossible and improper. 
This striking step on the part of Washington will perhaps 
bring home to the objectors the utter insularity of the argu- 
ments they present, not to speak of the prejudices they try 
to rouse in reenf orcement. They can scarcely fail to note that 
the opinion of our Allies is overwhelmingly in favour of that 
real and effective solidarity which Mr. Lloyd George de- 
manded in his Paris speech. . . .' 

The Prime Minister passed triumphantly through the 
parliamentary crisis. There was mild criticism on the part of 
the Opposition, but there was no serious attempt in the 
House of Commons to make an issue of the policy of coordi- 
nation as expressed in the Rapallo Agreement, nor to force a 

For a moment during the session of the following day, the 
matter seemed on the point of being reopened, as the result 
of a rumor that Colonel House had exaggerated Wilson's 
endorsement of the Lloyd George plan. 

Statement issued through Reuter Agency, November 19, 1917 


'President Wilson denies that he sent a cablegram to 
Colonel House stating that the United States considers that 
a united plan and control between the Allies and the United 
States is essential to a lasting peace. This denial was issued 
through Mr. Joseph Tumulty, the President's private 

Strictly speaking the denial was correct, for in his cable to 
House President Wilson had said nothing about 'a lasting 
peace.' These words, however, were implied in the cable and 
their introduction in House's paraphrase did not affect the 
main sense of the message, which was that Wilson * insisted* 
upon the War Council. The original authorization was in 


fact stronger than House's paraphrase. Whether the state- 
ment was issued through misapprehension of the facts by 
Mr. Tumulty has never been made clear. Inasmuch as the 
President and Colonel House exchanged their cables in a 
special code known only to themselves, it is possible that 
because of pressure of time and business Mr. Tumulty was 
not informed of Wilson's cable of endorsement. 

'November 20, 1917: This has been one of the most dis- 
turbing days,' wrote House, 'I have had since I have been 
here. For some unaccountable reason, a wireless was pub- 
lished in the papers this morning as coming from Washing- 
ton, denying some parts of the statement I gave out Sun- 

'It was disturbing to have such an incident occur when so 
much of real importance was to be done.' 

Colonel House to the President 


LONDON, November 20, 1917 

A very difficult and dangerous situation has been rife here 
since the Prime Minister made his Paris speech announcing 
the formation of a Supreme War Council The announce- 
ment along with his implied criticism of the military authori- 
ties precipitated a political crisis that threatened to overturn 
his Ministry. 

In the very critical condition of affairs elsewhere in the 
Allied States this might have proved the gravest disaster of 
the war. The Prime Minister was constantly urging me to 
say something to help the situation. This I refused to do 
until I had heard from you. The statement I gave out pur- 
posely refrained from approving the Prime Minister's plan, 
but merely stated the necessity for military unity and your 
instructions for Bliss and me to attend its first meeting fol- 
lowing the Paris Interallied Conference. 


The situation had become completely composed, but 
Tumulty's denial has started everything afresh, and the 
Government is to be questioned in the House of Commons 
this afternoon. 

I am refraining from and am asking the Press to refrain 
from any further statements. If this is done the incident will 
be closed. 


On Tuesday afternoon the question was raised in the 
House of Commons as to whether the statement of Wilson's 
endorsement of the War Council could be regarded as 
authoritative, in view of the denial from Washington. But 
since no confirmation of the denial came, and as Colonel 
House had read to Mr. Lloyd George and Lord Reading the 
original Wilson cable, Mr. Bonar Law was able to say for the 
Government that they had the official guarantee of American 
approval. 'I had every newspaper and Government official 
on my back yesterday, because of it,' House wrote to Wilson 
on Wednesday. * However, the incident is now happily 


During the course of this parliamentary crisis, which ended 
in the ratification of Lloyd George's Rapallo policy, the mem- 
bers of the American Mission, conscious of the immensity of 
the task of coordination and anxious to learn at first hand the 
essence of the problems for which they must find a solution, 
were brought into touch with the corresponding members of 
the British war boards. 1 They took up with them the ques- 
tions of man-power, tonnage, finance, food, blockade, war 

1 It goes without saying that this chapter should not be regarded as 
attempting to give a comprehensive survey of the work of the Mission. 
The complete story can be found in the official but as yet unpublished 


Through the courtesy of the Duke of Roxburghe the 
British Government made Colonel House their guest at 
Chesterfield House, with all its Gainsboroughs and Sir 
Joshuas, its old china and books, even its servants with cock- 
ades. The other members of the Mission were installed at 
Claridge's. In the library of Chesterfield House, built for 
Lord Chesterfield of the Letters by Izaac Ware, Colonel 
House carried on his interviews with journalists, standing in 
front of the chimney-piece with its Latin motto. ' It is one of 
the most beautiful rooms in London,' wrote the representa- 
tive of the Manchester Guardian after an early conference 
with the head of the Mission, 'with a coved ceiling round 
which are panels of the great dames of the eighteenth century 
painted by famous hands. Around Colonel House, listening 
to the consolidated silence of his observations, was the world 
in the person of the news gatherers of America, England, and 
her dominions. It added new history to Chesterfield House.' 

It was here for the most part that Colonel House devoted) 
himself to political conferences with the British leaders. ' He 
sought,' wrote Wiseman, Ho find out the views of various 
Allied statesmen so that he might determine with whom he 
could most usefully cooperate.' The nature of his confer- 
ences is indicated in the following extracts from his journal. 

'November 8, 1917: Lunch with Mr. Balfour. The only 

other guest was Sir Eric Drummond We made a survey 

of the entire field during and after luncheon. We spoke with 
the utmost candor. Mr. Balfour expressed great pleasure at 
our coming at this time and declared it meant much, not 
alone to Great Britain but to the Entente cause, on account 
of the dlbacle in both Russia and Italy. 

"He has made me feel that I have the confidence of his 
Government as much as I have of our own 

'November 9, 1917: Drummond showed me a confidential 
despatch which Mr. Balfour has been sending British agents 




throughout the Empire. It had reference to the adjustment 
of differences, should any arise, between American and 
British commercial interests. ... He showed me the latest 
despatches received concerning the Italian and Russian situ- 

* Sir George McDonough, Director of Military Intelligence, 
was an interesting caller. He is a canny Scot, and I did not 
get much from him. I learned afterward that it was because 
he feared Lloyd George might possibly * scrub his head* if he 
told things which George desired to tell himself. 

'Lord Milner l followed McDonough. We found ourselves 
in agreement upon nearly all the subjects discussed. . . . 

'Milner is able enough and judicious enough to see where 
this war is leading Europe, and he has a keen desire to bring 
it to an end in some way that will not make the sacrifices 

'November 10, 1917: . . . Bainbridge Colby followed to dis- 
cuss the advisability of commandeering all neutral shipping 
in the world. My first thought is that Great Britain and the 
United States should not set a precedent that might some 
day return to haunt us, nor be parties to any action akin to 
what Germany has done in the violation of Belgium. 

'Before Colby left, Lord Robert Cecil was announced. 
Much to my surprise, Cecil agreed with Colby, the argument 
of both being that it would work to the advantage of the 
neutrals. This may be true, nevertheless it is a pretext upon 
which such high-handed action by powerful nations is always 
done. Lord Robert and I conferred after Colby left, taking 
up the embargo question, the shipping question, and many 
other subjects in which our countries have a common interest. 

'Lunched with Bonar Law at 11 Downing Street. There 
was no one present other than ourselves, excepting his daugh- 

1 Member of War Cabinet (Minister without Portfolio), 1916-18; 
Secretary of State for War, 1918-19; the greatest of British administra- 
tors of the period. 


ter. Law is depressed and broken. Two of his sons have been 
killed and he cannot restrain his emotion in speaking of them. 
. . . The lunch was very simple. ... He is practicing economy 
of food, which public men preach but seldom follow. After 
lunch we discussed the possibility of terminating the war and 
the war's aftermath. I told him of the President's purpose to 
address Congress on the subject of economic freedom, and to 
threaten Germany with an economic war in the event she re- 
fused to be a party to a just and lasting peace. He expressed 
unqualified approval. . . . 

'Mr. Balfour and Lady Essex dined with us. After dinner 
Mr. Balfour and I retired to the library and conferred for 
more than an hour. At his request, I gave a detailed view of 
the situation at Washington 

*We talked of the proposed Supreme War Council. Mr. 
Balfour followed up the argument Drummond made yester- 
day upon the same subject, concerning the advisability of 
the United States having representation in it. After analyz- 
ing the question for some time, he thought it would not be 
necessary for the United States to be constantly represented 
on the civil end, but that we should keep a permanent mili- 
tary representative on it. I suggested General Bliss as a 
suitable member. . . . 

'November 11,1917: Walked with Wiseman to Buckingham 

Palace this morning at eleven o'clock There was a large 

crowd at the gates watching the changing of the guards. I 
was with the King for nearly an hour He was exceed- 
ingly cordial. We talked of the naval situation, the army, 
munitions, airplanes, and the question of my sitting in the 
new Supreme War Council. 

'November 12, 1917: [Sir William] Robertson is a plain, 
forceful soldier . . . without subterfuge. I was prepared to 
hear him criticize the proposed Supreme War Council, of 
which he is not to be a member. General Wilson, who is to be 
the military member, is not en rapport with either Robertson 


or Haig. ... He said the Turks had become rather assertive 
and it was necessary to give them 'a dressing down.' When 
that was done, nothing further at the moment was contem- 
plated. I found him against dividing the Allied forces into 
the several expeditions this, that, or the other one thought 
advisable. He wishes to concentrate on the Western Front, 
and he believes in the British having control of their own 
forces without regard to France, for they might have to stand 
alone against the enemy 

'Loulie and I lunched with the King and Queen at Buck- 
ingham Palace. Prince Albert and the Princess Mary were 
the only others present. We sat at a small table in a corner 
room overlooking Green Park and the Mall. It was as in- 
formal and as friendly as if it had been a family party. The 
lunch itself was simple. No wine was served. . . . 

'I returned to Chesterfield House in order to receive Lord 

* Viscount Grey of Fallodon did me the honor of coming 
down from Northumberland to see me. He dined with us to- 
night. After dinner we had a long and interesting confer- 
ence. . . . 

' We reviewed the war from its beginning. He recalled our 
many conversations, and he was pleased when I brought to 
his mind what he had said about the sanctity of treaties, al- 
most a year in advance of Germany's violation of Belgium. 
The occasion of his remarks was the Panama tolls contro- 
versy, a controversy which the President settled to the last- 
ing glory of honest diplomacy.' 


'November 13, 1917: General Smuts was my first afternoon 
caller. Nearly every one I have met has asked me to be cer- 
tain to see Smuts. He has grown to be the lion of the hour. 
. . . My expectations were unusually high; it was not alone 
what I had heard of him, but I have been impressed by his 


speeches and statements which I have read from time to 
time. He has just returned from Italy. He spoke enthu- 
siastically of the plan for the new Supreme War Council. 
This was valuable, for I have confidence in his opinion. 
He is one of the few men I have met in the Government 
who do not seem tired. He is alert, energetic, and force- 
ful. . . . 

'The French Ambassador, M. Paul Cambon, came next. 
We had a long and interesting conversation. 

'M. Cambon began by saying that in his opinion it would 
be advisable for the four principal Powers, the United States, 
France, Great Britain, and Italy, to hold a preliminary meet- 
ing in Paris before the general conference, this meeting to be 
devoted exclusively to a discussion of the military plans of 
the Allies. The conference as originally planned was to have 
been merely a conversation, but after the idea became known 
to the Press the smaller nations asked to be represented and 
out of politeness their request was granted. M. Cambon 
feared that at the conference these smaller Powers would 
utilize the occasion to voice their political aspirations and 
thus obscure the main object of the conference, which was 
the successful prosecution of the war. No Russian delegate 
would probably be sent, but it was known to the Allies that 
Russia desired from the Allies a new declaration of the ob- 
jects of the war; this M. Cambon thought quite unnecessary, 
as the object of the war was to beat Germany; all other ob- 
jects could be discussed after that 

'M. Cambon then reviewed conditions in Great Britain, 
France, and Italy: 

'Great Britain could be relied upon to continue the war; 
she had suffered less than France, had not been invaded, and 
was ready to make greater sacrifices 

'The prospect of losing Venice (he thought it would be 
lost) would unite the nation [Italy] as nothing else could and 
consequently might turn out a blessing in disguise; the col- 


lapse of the army was due to Italian Socialist propaganda 
acting in collusion with German agents. 

* In France there were elements in favor of a peace on any 
terms; these elements were composed principally of the mi- 
nority group of the Socialist Party and of a small number of 
financiers whose operations were hampered by the continu- 
ation of the war; the bulk of the nation, however, especially 
the army and the peasants, would refuse to return to the 
status quo before war after losing two million men, not to 
speak of the destruction of property in the invaded territory. 
Any Government, M. Cambon said, that attempted to nego- 
tiate a peace of this kind could not stand for twenty-four 

6 In view of the fact that the French and British were send- 
ing eight divisions to Italy, no further progress on the West- 
ern Front could now be expected; he saw nothing else but for 
the populations of the Allied nations to wait patiently until 
the spring when the arrival of sufficient American troops 
would enable a victorious offensive to be made, which he 
thought would be successful before the autumn, as he had 
reason to believe that the Germans were running short not so 
much of foodstuffs but of raw material for the manufacture of 
munitions and artillery. 1 He terminated his remarks by say- 
ing that the nation which first asked for an armistice would 
be the defeated one; it had always been so in history. 

'Lord Bryce came next. He desired to get my opinion re- 
garding a plan which he and his colleagues have submitted to 
the British Government suggesting the appointment of a 
commission to formulate plans for machinery to ensure peace 
after the war. I was sorry to tell him that the President felt 
it was best not to have a cut-and-dried agreement, but was 
in favor of a flexible understanding so that those concerned 
could. get together and formulate plans to meet any emer- 

1 M. Cambon seems to have been the one responsible official willing to 
prophesy Allied victory in 1918. 


gency. He admitted there was much to be said in favor of 
this. I asked him to submit his views in writing and I pro- 
mised to discuss it with the President when I returned to 

'November 14, 1917: . . . Lord French followed. He was 
exceedingly cordial and invited me to ask him any questions 
I desired. What I wished to know was his opinion of the pro- 
posed Supreme War Council. He was enthusiastic in his sup- 
port of it and hoped I would recommend a United States 
representative for it. 

' He spoke well of General Wilson and of the move to make 
him a member of the Supreme War Council 

'My old friend, Sir William Tyrrell, was another caller. 
The British Government have given Tyrrell a task somewhat 
similar to the one I have undertaken for the United States; 
i.e., gathering data and preparing a case for the peace con- 
ference. Tyrrell has not lost his perspective. He has the 
same logical outlook as before the war. I can understand 
how deeply such a man regrets the madness of the hour and 
his impotence to stop it. ... 

'It is needless to go into the exchange of our views as to 
what the peace conference should do, because we were en- 
tirely of one mind. He looks upon it as I do as a good op- 
portunity which may be lost because of the grasping, selfish 
interests ever ready to use such occasions for their own and 
their country's aggrandizement 

'I found Lansdowne l of a peculiarly pacific turn of mind. 
He condemned . . . the folly and madness of some of the Brit- 
ish leaders. He thought it was time for the British to realize 
that in the settlement they need not expect to get what he 
termed 'twenty shillings to the pound/ He believes that 
definite war aims should be set out aims that are moderate 

1 Marquess of Lansdowne, formerly British Foreign Secretary, who 
during the Balfour Ministry had negotiated the entente with France in 


and that will appeal to moderate minds in all countries. He 
specifically set forth five or six things he thought necessary 
to be done and, strangely enough, Conservative that he is, we 
scarcely disagreed at all [He advocated] a more liberal sea 
policy, bordering on the plan for the freedom of the seas, 
which indeed he was good enough to say he had obtained 
from me during my last visit here. He thought it would be 
necessary to give Germany an assurance as to our future 
economic policy which would not in any way restrict German 
trade. He was moderate in all his ideas 

'Lansdowne is a great gentleman . . . not merely in intel- 
lect and character, nor from having for a background an 
ancient and distinguished lineage, but in manner and in that 
intangible and indefinable air which comes as a gift from the 

'November 16, 1917: We dined with the Lord Chief Justice 
and Lady Reading. The other guests were the Prime Minis- 
ter and Mrs. George, Sir William and Lady Wiseman. After 
the ladies left the table, the Prime Minister, Reading, Sir 
William, and I discussed the general situation. I desired to 
find what was in Lloyd George's mind regarding peace terms. 
... I find it will be useless to try to get either the French or 
British to designate terms. Great Britain cannot meet the 
new Russian terms of 'no indemnities and no aggression' and 
neither can France. Great Britain at once would come in 
sharp conflict with her colonies and they might cease fighting, 
and France would have to relinquish her dream of Alsace and 
Lorraine. . . . 

'I determined not to push him further for a statement of 
peace terms, but concluded to wait until I return to Wash- 
ington and advise the President to do it. We are not embar- 
rassed by any desire for territory or commercial gain, there- 
fore we are in a better position to outline peace terms than 
any of the other belligerents. 

'November 18, 1917: The First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir 


Eric Geddes, conferred with me for an hour and a half. He 
has a fresh and vigorous personality. We went over naval 
matters in detail. ... I was interested in what he had to say 
about the submarine situation. It happens they bagged four 
yesterday, perhaps two more. It is the biggest haul they 
have had in any one day since the war began. He explained 
how they were overcoming the menace; how many they had 
caught to date; how many submarines the Germans had; 
how many were in northern waters and how many in south- 
ern, and how many were in commission at one time/ 

Colonel House to the President 


LONDON, November 18, 1917 

The following is short r6sum6 of general political condi- 

Russia: Kerensky and other more responsible officials urge 
Allies to make an offer of peace, basis no annexations or in- 
demnities. They believe Germany would not accept and this 
would help to solidify Russia. They do not believe Germany 
would make separate peace with Russia owing to danger of 
socialistic infection, but they believe Germany will take 
Petrograd and near provinces in the spring. They claim this 
would suit German purposes better because demobilization 
of Russian army would produce anarchy and total stoppage 
of supplies. 

The situation in Rumania is serious and they may be com- 
pelled to make a separate peace because of inability to get 
food from Russia. 

The Italian situation at the present moment is better. If 
the line holds until the 26th there is a good chance that it 
may hold permanently. To-morrow will be rather an anxious 
day here, but I think nothing serious will happen. 1 


1 Referring to the parliamentary crisis. 


'November 19, 1917:. .. The Greek Prime Minister, Venize- 
los, followed. He came with the Greek Minister and his Mil- 
itary Attach^, Colonel Phrantz&s. I had arranged for Crosby 
and Cravath to come to talk of the economic situation with 
Venizelos. When they came in I had gottenVenizelos to talk- 
ing of the military situation and he was explaining what he 
thought the Allies should do. Crosby asked whether he had 
any assurance that the Allies would continue to hold Salon- 

iki, stating that he had reasons for asking the question 

Venizelos replied that if the Allies did not hold Saloniki he 
might as well resign as Prime Minister, send for Constantine, 
and let the Germans take Greece. . . . 

'Then came Brailsford, who was followed by Spender, of 
the Westminster Gazette, who in turn was succeeded by Hirst, 
of the Economist, and Lord Loreburn. It was rather an after- 
noon with the Liberals. I explained the President's position 
and mind upon pending questions. It is always a pleasure to 
confer with Loreburn, for our minds run nearly parallel. . . . 

'November 20, 1917: The Prime Minister and Lord Chief 
Justice took dinner with us. We had a long and intimate talk 

afterward I pinned George down to British war aims. 

What Great Britain desires are the African colonies, both 
East and West; an independent Arabia, under the suzerainty 
of Great Britain; Palestine to be given to the Zionists under 
British or, if desired by us, under American control; an 
independent Armenia and the internationalization of the 
Straits. . . . 

C I told George and Reading that in my opinion it was not 
altogether certain that Great Britain would not have done 
better without allies. If she had fought Germany alone, she 
would have accomplished just what she has now accom- 
plished; that is, she would have held the seas, destroyed Ger- 
man commerce, and taken all the German colonies. Since it 
would have been impossible to have fought on land, Germany 
would have been compelled to have faced a battle at sea and 


her fleet, in all probability, would have been destroyed. The 
cost to Great Britain of such a war would not have been one 
tenth the cost of the present war in which she has had to 
create and maintain an enormous army, and has had to 
finance her allies. She could not have reached conclusions 
with Germany, nor could Germany have reached conclusions 
with her, but she would have come out of it much the better 
of the two. However, if this had happened, the sympathy of 
the world might have been with Germany rather than with 
Great Britain because of the power Great Britain would 
have exercised upon the seas a power which each nation 
might have thought would some day be directed against 

'November 21, 1917 : The most interesting happening of my 
day was a visit to the Admiralty. Jellicoe showed me his war 

maps, charts, etc He explained the strategy of the war 

on the seas. He showed me where the new mine fields are 
being placed across the Straits of Dover. He also had a chart 
showing the convoy system. Each flotilla is noted and its 
exact position known each day. Jellicoe spoke highly of Ben- 
son, for whom I have a warm regard. It is Benson who has 
insisted upon their making a further attempt to close the 
Straits of Dover 

'Jellicoe endeavored to explain, without my questioning 
him, the matters which have been uppermost in American 
minds as to the prosecution of a more vigorous war. He 
convinced me that it was impossible to attack the submarine 
bases at present. . . .* 

'I went from the Admiralty to No. 10 Downing Street, 
where the Prime Minister, Mr. Balfour, and I conferred for 
an hour and a half. At the Cabinet meeting to-day they dis- 
cussed two questions which they could not decide because 
they desired our opinion first. One was regarding Rumania 

1 See Sims, 'How We Nearly Lost the War," World's Work, March, 


and Russia. There is a strong element in the Cabinet who 
wish to recognize Kaledin, leader of the Cossacks in Southern 
Russia, by advising the Rumanians to cooperate with him. 
I thought at most they could not go further than to ad- 
vise Rumania to cooperate with whatever Allied fighting 
forces were nearest them. I strongly urged not mentioning 
names. . . . 

'The other question which had arisen in the Cabinet, and 
which all of them seemed to favor, was that Great Britain 
should publicly declare that East Africa must never again be 
under German rule. The idea here was that if such a state- 
ment was made, the natives would join the British against 
Germany. They now fear Germany may sometime govern 
them again. It is said that the Germans mistreated the na- 
tives and they hate them, but they are afraid to take any 
action. The Cabinet thought that by making this statement, 
and by sending an expeditionary force of two divisions, they 
would settle the war in East Africa during the winter. 

* I also strongly advised against making this statement. I 
thought the moment inopportune and Great Britain would 
be placed in a false light. They asked if it would embarrass 
us in the United States. I thought it would. I counseled 
doing nothing at present, but to leave the matter open for 
future discussion. The military importance of it was not 
sufficient, I thought, to overcome the moral question in- 
volved. . . . 

'We then went into the question of war aims. Maps were 
brought and Mr. Balfour started in with his ideas of terri- 
torial division I thought what we agreed upon to-day 

might be utterly impossible to-morrow, and it seemed worse 
than useless to discuss territorial aims at this time. . . . 

'What I thought was necessary and pertinent at this time 
was the announcement of general war aims and the formation 
of an international association for the prevention of future 


I shall therefore remain here until towards the end of next 
week. . . . 
The entire situation is critical. 


LONDON, November 16, 1917 


Northcliffe has been splendid. . . . The Prime Minister has 
repeatedly offered him a seat in the Cabinet, which he has 
refused. He did not propose to relinquish the right to criti- 
cize when he thought it necessary. . . . 

With this combination of Wiseman, Reading, and North- 
cliffe, things are now being accomplished with more rapidity 
than I have ever experienced here. 

The Prime Minister came to see me yesterday to urge 
that I consent to a postponement of the Paris Conference. . . . 

The postponement will not change our home-coming, 
which I have set for December 5th, 6th, or 7th from some 
port in France. I find that it would be impossible to do the 
things necessary and have the Commission finish their work 
before that date. 

I cannot tell you how splendidly and cordially the Com- 
mission are working together, and what a fine impression 
they have made here. 

Affectionately yours 


Not the least of the aid which Northcliffe gave came from 
his newspapers, which published statements of Tardieu and 
of Northcliffe himself on conditions in the United States, in 
which they demanded * swift improvement* in methods of 
managing the war, and emphasized the need of complete 

'An Interallied organization ... is indispensable,* wrote 


Tardieu. 'When each of the Allied Governments sends its 
missions to ask the aid of Americans, the United States gains 
the impression that affairs in Europe are in chaos. There 
should be at once a Council of the Allies, which, with full 
knowledge of the situation after a careful study of all the cir- 
cumstances, military and political, should transmit to the 
American Government en bloc the requirements of the vari- 
ous nations filtered, correlated, and justified in indisputable 
arguments, and proportioned to the capacity of production 
in the United States and the tonnage available for transport 
accommodation at sea. Then the United States, in full con- 
fidence of union among the Allies, can formulate its require- 
ments for submission to Congress.' 

Lord Northcliffe spoke with even greater frankness and 
vigor. He took the opportunity offered him by Lloyd 
George's request that he assume charge of the Air Ministry, 
to attack publicly what he regarded as aspects of inefficiency 
in British war administration, and to demand close co- 
operation with the efforts of America, the energy of which he 
praised warmly. 

Lord Northcliffe to Mr. Lloyd George l 


. . . The spirit of the men and women of Great Britain is 
clearly as eager and splendid as ever. We have, in my belief, 
the most [efficient?] army in the world, led by one of the 
greatest Generals, and I am well aware of the fine achieve- 
ments of many others of our soldiers, sailors, and statesmen, 
but I feel in the present circumstances I can do better work 
if I maintain my independence and am not gagged by a 
loyalty that I do not feel towards the whole of your ad- 

1 New York Times, November 16, 1917. [Cabled from London, Nov- 
ember 15.1 


I take this opportunity of thanking you and the War 
Cabinet for the handsome message of praise sent to me as 
representing the five hundred officials of the British War 
Mission to the United States, many of them volunteers and 
exiles. Their achievements and those of their ten thousand 
assistants deserve to be better known by their countrymen. 

The fact that their work is not known is due to the absurd 
secrecy about the war which still is prevalent. Everything 
these officials are doing is known to our American friends, 
and, of course, to the Germans. 

I trust I make no breach of confidence in saying that some 
of the documents which have passed through my hands as 
head of the Mission are such as, if published, would greatly 
increase our prestige in the United States and hearten our 
people at home. 

May I also take this opportunity of giving warning about 
our relations with that great people from whom I come. 
We have had the tragedy of Russia, due partly to lack of 
Allied propaganda to counteract that of the Germans. We 
have had the tragedy of Italy, largely due to that same 
enemy propaganda. We have had the tragedies of Serbia, 
Rumania, and Montenegro. There is one tragedy which I 
am sure we shall not have, and that is the tragedy of the 
United States. 

But from countless conversations with leading Americans 
I know that unless there is swift improvement in our methods 
here the United States will rightly take into its own hands 
the entire management of a great part of the war. It will not 
sacrifice its blood and treasure to the incompetent handling 
of the affairs of Europe. 

In saying all this, which is very much on my mind, believe 
me, I have none but the most friendly feeling toward your- 
self and that I am greatly honored by your suggestion. 

Yours sincerely 



The effort for greater vigor carried on by the Northcliffe 
Press combined with the dynamic leadership of Mr. Lloyd 
George led to the desired emphasis upon the economic pro- 
blems, without the solution of which military success was 

4 Now that the main outlines of an Allied Council are 
settled,' said The Times on November 17, 'the Cabinet are 
rightly giving first place to ensuring the success of the 
American Mission. The conversations between heads of de- 
partments are culminating in what in effect is a personal 
meeting of Governments. Colonel House, who for this pur- 
pose is himself virtually the Government of the United 
States, has had more than one discussion with the Prime 
Minister during the last two days, and his colleagues have 
hardly had a leisure moment. Unfortunate as it is in some 
respects that the visit of the Mission should coincide with 
political excitements both here and in Paris, there is now 
good reason for confidence that it will inaugurate a new and 
most hopeful chapter in the history of the war/ 

On November 20 the joint conference of which House had 
written to the President was held between the technical 
members of the American Mission and the British War 
Cabinet. Colonel House was not present, possibly because 
he wished to emphasize by his absence the fact that it was 
primarily a meeting to consider technical problems. Admiral 
Benson spoke for the American Mission. 

' It is a very significant occasion,' said Lloyd George in his 
welcome to the American delegates, 'were it only for the 
place where the meeting takes place. I do not want to rake 
up the unpleasant past, a past especially unpleasant for us 
though not for you. It was in this room, I believe, that Lord 
North engineered some trouble for America, but a great deal 


more trouble for himself. It is a great source of delight and 
satisfaction that in this very room where we committed a 
cardinal error, which has ever since been a lesson to us, a 
lesson which has borne fruit in the British Empire such as 
it is, that we should have representatives of your great 
country here to concert common action with us for the 
liberties of the world. 

'This is purely a business gathering. You have come over 
to this country to do business, and I have heard from in- 
quiries I have made from various departments how hard 
you have been working during the few days you have been 
here to transact your business with the various departments 

with which you are concerned All the things which are 

wanted for the efficient conduct of the campaign are urgent, 
because, naturally, the sooner you are ready the sooner it 
will be over. But there are one or two things which are more 
urgent than others. After a good deal of consultation with 
my colleagues and our military and naval advisers, I should 
put man-power and shipping as the two first demands on 
your consideration.' l 

Mr. Lloyd George then proceeded, with all his genius for 
summarization, to lay bare the plight of the Allies, sparing 
nothing of the importance of the Italian defeat and the 
Russian Revolution, which made the necessity of American 
aid vital. 

'The Prime Minister frankly stated that the sooner the 
Republic can send over the largest number of troops the 
better. He was anxious, he said, to know how soon the first 
million could be expected in France. America has promised 
to launch 6,000,000 tons of shipping during the coming year. 
Here again time is of the essence of their usefulness. Our 

1 New York Times Current History, July, 1925. The entire prods-verbal 
of the Conference is there published. 


shipping is practically all engaged in war work for ourselves 
and for our Allies. We cannot hope to have more available, 
even if the submarine danger does not grow worse, until the 
American programme begins to come into effect. Air service 
is another matter in which the Allies may safely count upon 
American help. We are also reluctantly compelled to rely 
very largely upon the United States and upon Canada to re- 
plenish our food supplies, and Mr. Lloyd George felt bound 
to assure his hearers that the "most drastic" restrictions on 
consumption "are about to be imposed" upon us all. On 
the other hand, he hopes that American assistance in tight- 
ening the blockade will enable us to make the enemy even 
more uncomfortable than they are.' l 

At last America was learning what she sought, where and 
how she could aid most and earliest. As the leader in The 
Times next morning declared, there was not 'any question 
of America's determination to throw her full weight into the 

struggle which she has entered All she wants to know is 

just where this weight will tell most.' Men, ships, air planes, 
food, a strict embargo such was the order in which the 
needs of the Allies were placed. The programme was still 
general, but the Americans now knew, as they had not 
known before, where the greatest urgency lay and just how 
serious was the crisis which had to be met. 

Furthermore, at Rapallo an important step had been 
taken in the direction of general unity of action. If the new 
Supreme War Council could be strengthened at the ap- 
proaching Paris conferences, an effective instrument of 
Allied victory would at last be developed. 

1 London Times, November 21, 1917. 





The representatives of the British, French, and Italian Governments 
assembled at Rapallo on the 7th November, 1917, have agreed on the 
scheme for the organization of a Supreme War Council with a Permanent 
Military Representative from each Power, contained in the following 



(1) With a view to the better coordination of military action on the 
Western Front a Supreme War Council is created, composed of the 
Prime Minister and a Member of the Government of each of the Great 
Powers whose armies are fighting on that front. The extension of the 
scope of the Council to other fronts is reserved for discussion with the 
other Great Powers. 

(2) The Supreme War Council has for its mission to watch over the 
general conduct of the war. . . . 

(3) The General Staffs and Military Commands of the armies of each 
Power charged with the conduct of military operations remain responsible 
to their respective Governments. 

(4) The general war plans drawn up by the competent military au- 
thorities are submitted to the Supreme War Council, which, under the 
high authority of the Governments, insures their concordance. 

(5) Each Power delegates to the Supreme War Council one Permanent 
Military Representative whose exclusive function is to act as technical 
adviser to the Council. 

(6) The Military Representatives receive from the Government and 
the competent military authorities of their country all the proposals, in- 
formation, and documents relating to the conduct of the war. 

(7) The Military Representatives watch day by day the situation of 
the forces, and of the means of all kinds of which the Allied armies and the 
enemy armies dispose. 

(8) The Supreme War Council meets normally at Versailles, where the 
Permanent Military Representatives and their Staffs are established. . . . 


The permanent Military Representatives will be as follows: 
For France, General Foch 

For Great Britain, General Wilson 
For Italy, General Cadorna 

November 7, 1917 


Unity of control in the conduct of military operations in a given theatre 
is essential to success. 

General Bliss 9 Memorandum of November 25, 1917 

THE conversations between the American War Mission and 
the representatives of the British War Cabinet, held in the 
historic room in Downing Street on November 20, might be 
regarded, as an article in The Observer suggested, as 'the 
effective focus of the whole world-wide energies of the 
English-speaking peoples/ But they were merely prelimi- 
naries to the more important conversations of all the Allies 
that were arranged at the French capital. 'While we write 
the scene is changed to Paris. There, with the full participa- 
tion of the United States, is being held an Allies' Conference 
by far the most thorough, momentous, which has yet taken 
place. ... By disunity the Western Allies have thrown away 
chance after chance, but at last the stars have met in their 
favour/ l 

The historian may raise the question whether the im- 
mediate specific results of the Paris conferences equaled this 
journalistic promise. But it is certain that Allied leaders had 
come to realize that closer coordination of effort was the 
single alternative to defeat. This realization marked the 
turning-point of the war; and if this month of November, 
1917, might with some justice be called the darkest hour, it 
was not far from the dawn. Allied unity was not completed 
at this time either in the economic or military field. But 
much of the machinery was planned which ultimately 
achieved the necessary coordination. 

1 The London Observer, November 25, 1917. 


Two main conferences were called, the one at Paris, the 
other at Versailles. The first was the general Interallied Con- 
ference, attendance at which was the original purpose of the 
House Mission. It was composed of representatives of all 
the Allies, who held their opening session on Thursday, 
November 29, in the Salon de PHorloge of the French Min- 
istry for Foreign Affairs on the Quai d'Orsay. It was the 
same room in which fourteen months later the plenary ses- 
sions of the Peace Conference were to be called. In the 
number and dignity of the delegates as well as in the mere 
formality of the two sessions, there was much to suggest the 
Peace Conference, although the later and more august as- 
sembly was never able to rival the severe brevity which 
characterized this gathering. The personnel was largely the 
same, for the Governments of the principal Powers were 
destined to last through the war, and the Peace Conference 
itself could hardly display a more distinguished list of dele- 
gates. Eighteen nations were represented, from Belgium to 
Siam, a galaxy of Prime Ministers, Foreign Secretaries, 
Commanders-in-Chief and Chiefs of Staff, Admirals, Am- 
bassadors, shipping experts, and food controllers. 

As proved to be the case later at the Peace Conference, 
the plenary sessions of the Interallied Conference were 
chiefly decorative. The real work was accomplished at the 
small committee meetings of the experts, where the prin- 
ciples and mechanism of cooperation were outlined. Accord- 
ing to Mr. Grasty, correspondent for the New York Times, 
an important contribution of the American delegates was 
their successful insistence that the Interallied Conference 
should not become a debating society for the great orators 
of the Allies, but should immediately resolve itself into a 
series of small workable and working committees. 

The second of the general conferences was the Supreme 
War Council, which held its initial session at Versailles on 
December 1, representing France, Great Britain, Italy, and 


the United States. If the purpose of the general Interallied 
Conference was primarily to provide coordination in matters 
of finance, supply, shipping, embargo, that of the Supreme 
War Council was to create an organization capable of co- 
ordinating military effort viewed in the light of general pol- 
icy. Two questions had to be answered. The first concerned 
the composition and powers of the Council, which as out- 
lined in the Rapallo Agreement were satisfactory neither to 
the Americans nor to the French, and were regarded with 
suspicion by an important group of British military experts. 
The second question concerned the war-plan for the ap- 
proaching year. What steps should be taken to meet the 
threatened German offensive on the Western Front; how 
much effort should be expended in assistance to Italy and 
Greece; how much emphasis should be laid upon Allenby's 
operations against the Turks; what could be done to bring 
Russia back into the alliance? 


The American Mission crossed the Channel on November 
22, and during the week that followed, even before the first 
formal session of the Interallied Conference, they went far 
toward settling with their French colleagues the bases of 
economic coordination. For Colonel House, the most im- 
portant immediate problem was the settlement of the com- 
position and functions of the Supreme War Council. He 
discovered as soon as he reached France that criticism of the 
Rapallo Agreement was acrid, and he feared lest the disagree- 
ment that threatened to develop between the French and 
British Governments should interfere materially with plans 
of coordination. House sympathized with the French de- 
mand for unified military control. At the same time he 
appreciated keenly the political difficulties of Mr. Lloyd 

The British Prime Minister insisted that the Supreme War 


Council must be under political control, since it was im- 
possible to separate problems of general policy from those of 
military strategy; it was just this separation, he contended, 
which left the military forces under the control of com- 
manders who had a national and not an Allied point of view, 
and which accounted for the waste and failures of the pre- 
ceding years. Hence, according to the Rapallo Agreement, 
the Council was headed by the Prime Ministers and Foreign 
Ministers, and the military representatives were subordi- 
nated to the political. 

Mr. Lloyd George, moreover, insisted upon separating the 
Supreme War Council from the Chiefs of Staff, partly be- 
cause of his unwillingness to appoint as military representa- 
tive on the Council the British Chief of Staff, whom he re- 
garded as largely responsible for the strategy which had cost 
the British army appalling losses in the two big battles of 
1917. His choice was Sir Henry Wilson, whose * remarkable 
natural gifts were not excelled in the British army; his ex- 
perience was wide, his mind quick and resourceful, his cour- 
age conspicuous; especially he was an intimate friend of 
Foch and much trusted by the French Staff a happy 
augury for the new cooperation. The Prime Minister and 
Sir William Robertson were men of incompatible tempera- 
ments, and their collaboration was perpetually hindered by 
mutual suspicion. Sir Henry Wilson, on the other hand, was 
a man whom Mr. Lloyd George understood and valued, for 
he had many qualities akin to his own unflagging op- 
timism for one thing, and a talent for explicit statement rare 
among tongue-tied soldiers. 9 1 

It is not difficult to understand the factors that led Mr. 
Lloyd George to subordinate the military aspect of the 
Supreme War Council and to refuse to appoint to it the 
British Chief of Staff. But the French insisted that the 
Council as organized by the Rapallo Agreement did not 

1 Buchan, A History of the Great War. iv, 173. 


provide for effective military coordination, since it left the 
Chiefs of Staff outside; and the position of the military ad- 
visers on the Council was anomalous, since they were di- 
vorced from their own staffs, subordinated to the political 
members, and deprived of any executive powers. The 
French would naturally have liked a single command to be 
exercised by a French general. But the British would not 
listen to such a suggestion. 'In all the conferences of that 
time,' wrote General Bliss, 'and up to the great disaster four 
months later, any suggestion as to a Commander-in-Chief 
only developed the belief that it was quite impossible.' l 

If a generalissimo was out of the circle of practical possi- 
bilities for the moment, the Americans were none the less 
anxious to achieve virtual unity of military control. Neither 
General Pershing nor General Bliss, according to House's 
report, believed that this could be secured by the Rapallo 
plan unless it were amended. 

Colonel House to the President 

PARIS, November 23, 1917 

I foresee trouble in the workings of the Supreme War 
Council. There is a tremendous opposition in England to 
Lloyd George's appointment of General Wilson. Neither 
Sir William Robertson, Chief of Staff, nor Sir Douglas 
Haig have any confidence in him, and they and their friends 
look upon it as a move to put Wilson in supreme com- 

The enemies of Lloyd George and the friends of Robertson 

1 Foreign Affairs, December 15, 1922, p. 9. The author of Fragments 
fhistoire, who is usually well-informed, states (Le Commandement unique: 
Foch et les armies f accident, 188) that Colonel House asked definitely for 
the appointment of Marshal Joffre as generalissimo. It is certain that 
House did not conceal his personal preference for the single command; 
but it is equally certain that he realized the futility of demanding it at 
this time, and there is nothing in his papers to show that he ever sug- 
gested Joffre in this connection. 


and Haig believe that George wants to rid himself of these 
generals and supersede them with Wilson. They claim that 
Wilson is not a great general, but is a politician and one that 
will be to George's liking. 1 

The French want a * Generalissimo' but they want him 
to be a Frenchman. This, too, would meet with so much 
opposition in England that it is not to be thought of. Any 
Government that proposed it would be overthrown. 

I have had long conferences with Bliss and Pershing on 
the subject, and I think they see the danger as I do. I am 
trying to suggest something else which will give unity of 
control by uniting all involved rather than creating dissen- 

I have just had a conference alone with Clemenceau. 
Later without my saying a word upon the subject, he prac- 
tically repeated the opinion that I have expressed to you 
above concerning the Supreme War Council. He is earnestly 
in favor of unity of plan and action, but he thinks as I do 
that the plan of Lloyd George is not workable, and for 
reasons somewhat similar to those I have given. 

He has nothing in mind and says that he dares not formu- 
late a plan because it might be looked upon with suspicion. 
He wants us to take the initiative and he promises that we 
can count upon him to back to a finish any reasonable sug- 
gestion that we make. ... 

He has put his time at my disposal and asks me to come 

1 House is merely reporting opinion. His own judgment of Sir Henry 
Wilson was, that of all the British officers he was best suited to serve as 
military representative on the council, both because of his ability and be- 
cause of his cordial personal relations with the French. 

House's letter to the President does not do justice to the point of view 
of Sir Henry Wilson, whose diaries indicate that both his and Mr. Lloyd 
George's plans were not based upon a desire to oust Sir William Robert- 
son, but upon the conviction that only through an organization superior 
to the Chiefs of Staff could the war be won. How far this view should be 
regarded as correct is a matter upon which opinions differ and will prob- 
ably continue to differ. 


at my pleasure unannounced and says the door will always 
be open. 

Affectionately yours 


General Bliss seems to have agreed with Mr. Lloyd George 
that the Rapallo plan was sound in so far as it left general 
supervision of the conduct of the war to the political leaders 
and was 'in accord with the military principle that war is 
but a continuation of political policy in a new form/ l But 
like General Pershing he was convinced that in a given 
theater of operations, such as the Western Front, unity of 
military control was essential to success and, in default of a 
generalissimo, that it could be achieved only through a 
purely military council with executive powers. The plan 
which he drafted with House and which they presented to 
the French thus eliminated the political members of the 
Supreme War Council and gave to the military members 
executive rather than merely advisory powers. 

Memorandum on Unity of Control 

PARIS, November 25, 1917 

' 1. Unity of control in the conduct of military operations 
in a given theater is essential to success. 

'2. To ensure real efficiency, this unity of control must be 
effected through a purely military council, it being assumed 
that one or more of the principal Allied nations may be 
unwilling to place their military forces under a single 

'3. It is believed that the Supreme War Council should 
be composed of the Commanders-in-Chief of the principal 
national forces in the field on the front over which the unity 
of control is necessary, together with the Chiefs of Staff of 

1 Bliss, in Foreign Affairs, December 15, 1922, p. 6. 


those same national forces or officers designated by these 
Chiefs of Staff and representing them. 

'4. To ensure the prompt execution of the will of this 
Supreme War Council, there must be one man to carry this 
will into effect. This man must be the President of the 
Supreme War Council, chosen by the other members and 
having power to execute their will/ 

We may ask whether, if this plan had been put into effect 
and if General Foch had been chosen as executive officer, the 
military disasters of 1918 might not have been avoided or 
lessened. It is interesting, at any rate, to note that the func- 
tions which General Foch was given in April, 1918, of 'co- 
ordinating the action of the Allied armies on the Western 
Front,' were almost exactly those which Bliss and House 
outlined in November for the President of the Supreme War 

A decade later General Bliss, writing at Washington on 
June 14, 1928, made the following comments on the memo- 
randum which he and House presented to the French: 

'This was one of those "groping" memoranda, written 
when we were trying to feel our way through a very hazy 
matter, and doubtless would not have been written a little 

'The American Mission landed in England on November 
7, 1917, the day on which at Rapallo Messrs. Lloyd 
George, Painlev6 and Orlando created the Supreme War 
Council. No one fully -understood it, not even its creators. 
Military men, and most others who thought at all about it, 
believed that it would be a sort of Aulic Council, making and 
directing military plans, in short, another step to dis- 
aster. Moreover, the French believed that it was a British 
scheme to get control of the French armies, and the British 
thought the same about the French. . . . PainlevS's govern- 


ment fell; Lloyd George said that his government was saved 
only by the adhesion, at the last moment of the British 
crisis, of President Wilson to the Agreement of Rapallo. I 
was influenced by the general military opinion. In my report 
to the President on December 17, 1917, 1 strongly urged that 
he make his adhesion to the Supreme War Council con- 
tingent on the appointment of an Allied Commander in 
chief, I believing that with such an Allied commander the 
Supreme War Council would practically cease to operate. 
I did not then realize (and I don't think that any one else 
did) that the S.W.C. would not interfere in matters of mili- 
tary control but would only harmonize Allied governmental 
policies, which military commanders in the field could not 
do. None of us realized what the real functions of the S.W.C. 
were to be until the first important meeting in January. 
Until that time (at any rate, at the time of the attached 
memorandum) I was trying to find a way by which its possi- 
bilities for harm could be minimized. This appears in Par. 2 
of the attached memorandum. My general idea in it was 
that unless the Allies could agree on a single commander 
in chief, the only thing was to compose the Council of the 
National commanders; let them agree on every operation 
in which two or more nations were to be expected to give 
mutual assistance, and then let one of them have power to 
execute their will. This was a way of "beating the devil 
around the stump"; for, evidently this man would, for all 
practical purposes of the particular campaign, be a com- 
mander in chief/ 

The Americans understood, of course, that their proposal 
would encounter strong opposition. The British military 
leaders would naturally object to the executive powers of the 
President of the Supreme War Council, who would become 
practically Commander-in-Chief of the Allied armies. The 
proposal also called for the inclusion in the Council of the 
Chiefs of Staff, to which Mr. Lloyd George was irrevocably 


opposed. None the less it seemed worth while to put the 
scheme forward, especially since the contribution of the 
United States to Allied man-power was likely to be more 
important than any one had imagined. Both the British and 
French made it plain that without such contribution the 
military danger in the approaching spring would be serious. 
In London, General Bliss had discussed the matter with Sir 
William Robertson, and thus reported his conversation to 
Colonel House: 

'I showed him,' said Bliss, 'that by the month of May 
next, including troops now in France, we could, with the 
facilities now at our disposal transport not more than 525,000 
men, including non-combatant forces; that without addi- 
tional tonnage we could not supply even that number of 
men. ... He expressed grave apprehension at this state- 

'He told me that he doubted whether Italy could be held 
in the war during the coming winter; and that should she 
remain in it would require the presence of considerable 
troops from the English and French forces on the Western 
Front. ... He said that the French man-power was going 

down He added that the Russian situation was such 

that the probability had to be faced at any moment for the 
withdrawal of perhaps thirty or forty German divisions from 
that front and transferring them to the Western Front. . . . 
The general impression left on my mind by his statement of 
the case was that a military crisis is to be apprehended if we 
cannot have in France next year by the end of spring a very 
much larger force than now seems possible/ l 

In their interviews with Bliss and House, the French were 

1 ' The British military men,' wrote General Bliss on June 14, 1928, 
4 insisted that the issue of the war would be determined in 1918 and 
that if America could not at least double the effort she hoped to make 
by the end of May, 1918, the Allied cause was lost. 9 


quite as pessimistic as Robertson and more specific. They 
insisted that an American army of a million would be neces- 
sary by the summer of 1918, although it would not be used 
except for defensive operations. 

If the United States were to furnish such tremendous addi- 
tion to Allied man-power, they could fairly ask for influence 
in determining the military organization of the Allies. Bliss 
and House were further encouraged by the attitude of 
Clemenceau and P6tain, who in the conference of November 
25 gave general approval to the American scheme of a mili- 
tary executive council. 

Memorandum of Conversation of Colonel House and General 
Bliss with M. Clemenceau and General Petain 

PARIS, November 25, 1917 

4 . . . M. Clemenceau said that he would get straight to 
business and discuss the subject of the conference, to wit, the 
effective force of the French army in its relation to the 
arrival of American troops. He then requested General 
P6tain to make a general statement. 

* General P6tain began by saying that there are now 108 
divisions of competent French troops at his disposition, in- 
cluding all troops on the immediate front and those which 
are held in reserve. He said that the French losses had been 
approximately 2,600,000 men, killed, died of wounds, per- 
manently incapacitated, and prisoners. This is in addition 
to all men on the lines of communication and in the general 
service of the rear. Eight of these divisions, by about the 
beginning of the new year or soon thereafter, will have been 
transferred to northern Italy, leaving 100 for service in 
France. As these divisions are not more than eleven thou- 
sand men strong, each, this will give him a disposable force 
of not more than eleven hundred thousand men. He stated 
that the English have in France and Flanders sixty divisions, 


which, as their divisions approximate twenty thousand men 
each, gives them a force of approximately twelve hundred 
thousand men. 

'He further stated that the English with this force of 
twelve hundred thousand men are occupying a front of 
about 150 kilometers, and M. Clemenceau then added that 
the French with their eleven hundred thousand men were 
occupying about 500 kilometers. 

'General P6tain estimated that on the German front there 
was an equal number of troops, but that there were no means 
of determining with accuracy how many disposable men the 
latter had in the rear. He thought it possible that the Ger- 
mans might be able to transfer from the Russian front as 
many as 40 divisions if they were not held there by active 
operations on the part of the Russians and Rumanians. . . . 

* General P&tain, in reply to the question as to how many 
American troops he desired to have available at a fixed date, 
replied that as many as possible should be there as early as 
possible, but that they must be soldiers and not merely men. 
It being explained to him how desirable it was that we should 
have an approximate definite number by a fixed date in order 
to make our negotiations with those who must provide the 
necessary tonnage, he stated that we must have a million 
men available for the early campaign of 1919, with another 
million ready to replace and reenforce them. Asked how 
many we should have in France for a campaign in 1918, he 
said that this was answered by fixing the number for the 
campaign of 1919, since in order to have this number for the 
latter campaign they would have to arrive at a fixed rate 
from this moment and extending throughout the year 1918; 
the number that would thus have arrived at any fixed date 
in the year 1918 was all that he would ask for that date. He 
explained that for the campaign of 1918 he would utilize the 
American troops in holding those parts of the line on which 
he would not make an offensive, thus relieving the French 


troops now there and making the latter available for an 
offensive elsewhere. In order to cany out this plan, he 
stated that we should move troops to France at the rate of 
two divisions complete per month with corresponding service 
of the rear troops, until about the first of May, when the rate 
should be increased to three divisions a month and continue 
thus through the calendar year. 

'It will be noted that at this rate, including the four divi- 
sions now in France, there would be there at the end of the 
year a total of thirty divisions. Since the American division 
as now organized consists of 27,000 men, these thirty divi- 
sions should be equivalent to seventy-three French divisions 
of 11,000 each. 

'The discussion of this subject having terminated, Mr. 
House then asked the question as to how far M. Clemenceau 
and General Petain accepted the organization and functions 
of a Supreme War Council as proposed by Mr. Lloyd George. 
In reply, both of them expressed non-concurrence in it. 
General P6tain strongly expressed the view that the Council 
must have executive power and the right to exercise this 
power promptly. He did not think that this power existed or 
could be exercised in a council formed as proposed by Mr. 
Lloyd George. Asked by Mr. House as to whether a work- 
able Supreme War Council could be formed and composed 
of the Commanders-in-Chief of the armies on the Western 
Front, together with the Chiefs of Staff of those armies, the 
latter constituting a Committee on Strategy, he replied that 
this could be done were it not for the fact that there would be 
still no one person to carry into execution the will of this 
military council. Being asked by General Bliss whether this 
executive official might not be the President of the Council, 
to be chosen by the members thereof and with power only 
to carry into execution the will of the Council, he replied that 
this could be done and being done such an arrangement 
would have his approval. He stated, however, that while, in 


planning an offensive a considerable time beforehand, there 
would be time for careful consideration and expression of the 
will of the Council, there might be emergencies requiring 
such prompt action that this executive officer could not be 
expected to do more than quickly consult the other members 
and then give very prompt orders. 

4 Being asked whether M. Clemenceau and General P6tain 
gave their approval of this general plan with the distinct 
understanding that it eliminated the Prime Ministers and 
other political representation of the various Allied countries, 
they both stated that it was so understood by them. . . .' 

Colonel House to the President 


PARIS, November 26, 1917 

The conference with Clemenceau and Petain yesterday 
resulted in a clear understanding as to the military situation. 
They gave us information about the number of fighting men 
left in France and what would be necessary from us. If we 
send over a million actual fighting men by the autumn of 
1918, they will continue to use their men for offensive opera- 
tions and use ours for defensive purposes until then. 

P6tain believes that whatever Supreme War Council is 
created should have a president or executive officer to 
execute its decisions. This is sure to meet with English 
opposition. What is your opinion of it? The English arrive 
to-morrow night, and on Wednesday Lloyd George, Clemen- 
ceau, and I will have a conference. 


President Wilson's reply to Colonel House's request for 
instructions as to what plan he should advocate was general 
and left the matter to House's discretion. The President 
cabled that after a conference with Secretary Baker he 
thought it best to say that he favored 'the most effec- 


live methods obtainable' whether directed by one man or 
not. 1 

On November 27 the British representatives arrived in 
Paris. Colonel House immediately arranged for an interview 
with Mr. Lloyd George and set himself for the effort to per- 
suade him to accept the American plan for a military council 
with an executive officer. The British Prime Minister was 
cordial, but he did not conceal the difficulties which stood in 
the way of his approval Not the least of these difficulties 
was the strong sentiment in Great Britain against putting 
British troops under the control of a foreign commander, 
which would have been the practical effect of the American 
suggestion. House finally agreed that if the Council could 
be made purely military in composition and left with execu- 
tive powers, it would not be essential to include the Chiefs of 
Staff. ' It would be better to have the Chiefs of Staff/ wrote 
House, 'but since he is so thoroughly committed to Wilson 
and since the appointment of Wilson will mean Lloyd 
George's trouble and not ours, no one should complain/ The 
Prime Minister admitted that his chief objection to the 
American plan arose from its inclusion of the Chiefs of Staff 
and he promised to consider the compromise. But the next 
morning he decided that he could accept no change in the 
Rapallo Agreement. It was essential, he felt, that the Su- 
preme War Council should be under political control, and if 
the Chiefs of Staff were excluded it would be useless and con- 
fusing to give executive powers to the military members. 

An extract from the diary of Sir Henry Wilson, who came 
over from London with Mr. Lloyd George, indicates that the 
Prime Minister was convinced that the Rapallo plan was the 
only feasible one and that if that fell through there would be 
no Supreme War Council. 

* Lloyd George is angry/ wrote Sir Henry on November 27, 
1 Wilson to House, December 1, 1917. 


4 and says that he will have a row with Clemenceau to- 
morrow, and if Clemenceau does not give in he [Lloyd 
George] will go straight back to London. Lloyd George cer- 
tainly must show his teeth. It is intolerable if arrangements 
come to at Rapallo one week can be upset the next. 

* Lloyd George realizes perfectly that his own future rests 
on the success of the Supreme Council, and he also is clear 
in his mind that unless we have it we shall lose the war. 
Clemenceau will give in to-morrow. He is in no position to 
quarrel with Lloyd George/ l 

Thus, early in the morning of November 28 the British 
Prime Minister told House that he could agree to no change 
in the Rapallo Agreement, that the Chiefs of Staff must be 
excluded and the political complexion of the Council empha- 
sized. He asked House to tell Clemenceau that, unless the 
French accepted the Rapallo Agreement as binding, there 
was nothing for him to do but return to London. 

Colonel House wrote as follows of his conference with 

* I was with the French Prime Minister at half-past nine. 
. . . Clemenceau agreed to yield to Lloyd George as to the 
Chiefs of Staff, but said with a sardonic smile, "It vitiates 
the entire plan. What I shall do is to put on a second or 
third rate man instead of Foch, and let the thing drift where 
it will." . . . 

' 1 remarked that it was hard enough to fight the Germans 
and we had best not begin fighting among ourselves, and if 
Lloyd George insisted upon such a Supreme War Council as 
had been suggested ... we would have to yield because of 
his difficulties at home. The differences between George, 
Robertson, and Haig make it impossible to carry out the 
general desire for complete unity of military action. 

1 Callwell, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, n, 32. 


4 I convinced Clemenceau that we had better, for the mo- 
ment, . . . not do anything to aggravate the situation for 
him [Lloyd George]/ 

Thus the composition of the Supreme War Council and 
its functions were settled according to the Lloyd George 
formula, and the military representatives on the Council re- 
mained simply advisers to the main political body. In his 
memoirs, M. Painleve intimates that had he remained in 
power the military committee would have formed an actual 
interallied staff, which would have been headed by General 
Foch in command of the Franco-British reserves, a plan 
which was attempted the following February. 1 But the pa- 
pers of Colonel House, as quoted above, indicate clearly 
that, given the difficult situation in which Mr. Lloyd George 
found himself, no further step toward unification of inter- 
allied control could have been taken at this time. It is hardly 
likely that where M. Clemenceau and Colonel House failed 
to alter the British attitude, M. Painleve could have suc- 
ceeded. 2 

The military committee, at all events, was a strong one, 
for Clemenceau appointed not the 'second or third rate man' 
he had threatened, but Foch's Chief of Staff, General Wey- 
gand, who was proved in France and later in Poland to 
possess strategic qualities of the highest order. Great Britain 
was represented by Sir Henry Wilson, as Mr. Lloyd George 
planned, until February when, following Sir William Robert- 

1 Comment fai nommi Foch et Pttain, 290. 

2 Sir William Robertson believes (Soldiers and Statesmen, i, 221) that 
'the real attitude of Mr. Lloyd George differed considerably from the ac- 
count which M. Painlev6 gives of it.' That account, which presents the 
British Prime Minister as entirely in accord with Painlev6's desire to give 
General Foch virtual control at this time, is quite inconsistent with the 
impressions of Colonel House. It should be observed that just as soon as 
Mr. Lloyd George judged the political situation to be ripe for the pro- 
posal, January 30, 1918, he himself advocated granting executive powers 
to the military representatives under the presidency of General Foch and 
giving to them control of the general reserve of thirty divisions. 


son's resignation, he became Chief of Staff. Italy was repre- 
sented by Cadorna, who had the advantage of having com- 
manded the Italian army and the disadvantage of having lost 
much of it. The United States was represented by General 
Bliss. Although deprived of the opportunity to coordinate 
strategy on the Allied fronts, the military committee col- 
lected at Versailles a mass of information and elaborated 
certain plans which ultimately proved of the utmost assist- 
ance to General Foch as Commander-in-Chief . 


In the mean time preparations were made for convening 
the Interallied Conference, the importance of which was em- 
phasized by the Allied Press in rather extravagant phrases. 
Colonel House regarded the plenary session, to which dele- 
gates of all the Powers at war with Germany were invited, 
with a mixture of indifference and apprehension. The actual 
work of coordination had been and would be accomplished 
by the technical experts in their committee meetings, and 
not by the chiefs of state in solemn conclave. There was 
some danger, perhaps, that the plenary session would pro- 
voke time-consuming debate on the more delicate topics 
which, if discussed in public, would tend to divide rather 
than to unite the Allies. 

'November 27, 1917: Following some remarks we had on 
the subject, Clemenceau told a mutual friend that he had 
about decided to open the Conference with not more than 
three sentences. He will virtually say: "Gentlemen, we are 
at war, let us proceed to work/ 5 I sent word to him that 
this would be the most dramatic incident of the Conference, 
and I hoped he would hold to his intention 

'I said to Lloyd George that Clemenceau would probably 
make a speech of not more than two or three sentences in 
opening the Conference and perhaps he [Lloyd George] 


would offer a resolution that speeches be dispensed with, 
that committees be appointed, and the Conference get down 
to immediate business. ... He saw the danger of having 
speeches made at the Conference. If they are made, the 
Russian question will be ventilated and many indiscreet 
things said which might make the Conference an instrument 
for evil rather than good. We should get down to work at 
once, having already agreed upon the committees to be 

'November 28, 1917: [Conference with Clemenceau.] I 
asked about the Interallied Conference. Clemenceau's face 
twisted into a curious smile and he shrugged his shoulders. 
We are both of the opinion that it is useless to call all the 
experts and delegates who are here into a general meet- 

'I do not wish it to be understood that I do not approve 
the general purpose for which this Conference is called, for 
the war can be won only by a coordination of all the Allied 
resources. What Clemenceau objects to is the spectacular 
manner in which it was called. All the men on our Mission, 
and those on the other Allied Missions, could have met 
quietly and coordinated the work to be done without such a 
meeting as is planned, and which will be filled with political 
leaders bent upon airing their opinions. . . . 

* Clemenceau telephoned Pichon l that I was on the way 
and said any understanding we reached he would abide by. 

'Pichon thought it would be best to invite every one in at 
the beginning and then segregate the members of the Confer- 
ence into sections or committees, and to keep down general 
discussion in order to prevent friction. He agreed, too, to let 
all the Allied Ambassadors, all the French Cabinet, and prac- 
tically every one else who desired to sit in, do so 

'Went to the Foreign Office at six o'clock. Lloyd George, 
Balfour, Orlando, Sonnino, Clemenceau, and Pichon were 

1 Stphane Pichon, Minister of Foreign Affairs. 


present at the meeting. We discussed the procedure for 
to-morrow's conference. . . . 

'Pichon thought committees could be formed by to- 
morrow afternoon. I replied that our members on the com- 
mittees could be selected within ten minutes after we re- 
turned to the hotel. 

'I took Balfour back to the Crillon, and he put Sir Eric 
Drummond in touch with Gordon, and in a few minutes he 
and Drummond had the committees arranged/ 

Colonel House to the President 


PARIS, November 28, 1917 

I am having frequent conferences with the French and 
English Prime Ministers and we are reaching conclusions 
upon many matters. 

The Conference itself to-morrow will not be important, for 
there will be representatives of all Allied Powers and the dis- 
cussions must necessarily be of a general and not very in- 
timate character. Such a large conference was a mistake and 
has many elements of danger. Our main endeavor now is to 
get through with it without any mishap. 

The Supreme War Council will probably meet at Ver- 
sailles on Saturday. That, too, has been largely divested of 
its power for service by Lloyd George's insistence that Gen- 
eral Wilson shall sit on it instead of the Chiefs of Staff and 
commanders in the field, as Clemenceau, Petain, Bliss, and 
I had agreed. This is because of his disagreement with 
Robertson and Haig. I suppose that he does not feel strong 
enough to depose them and is therefore using the Supreme 
War Council idea to supplant them in another way. 


'November 29, 1917: The Interallied Conference took place 
this morning at ten o'clock at the Foreign Office. It went 


absolutely as scheduled. It was an imposing gathering. The 
Prime Ministers, Foreign Secretaries, Ambassadors, Army 
Chiefs of Staff, Navy heads, etc., etc., of the Allied forces 
were brought together in one place for the first time. . . . 

'After Clemenceau had read a short address of a few lines, 
the French Minister for Foreign Affairs made exactly the 
speech we agreed upon yesterday, and the Conference im- 
mediately adjourned and the different sections went into 
executive session. It was dramatic and unusual. ... I feel 
sure there has never been a conference of such importance 
with so little said and which was so promptly closed. I have 
never seen a more surprised set of delegates. Even the 
British were but partially aware of how drastic the curtail- 
ment of speech was to be. It was exactly eight minutes from 
the time Clemenceau rapped the Conference to order until 
it was adjourned.' 

Clemenceau's speech was indeed a model of brevity. 

'In this, the greatest of all wars/ he said, 'we are brought 
together by the sentiment of supreme solidarity in order to 
achieve upon the battlefield the right to a peace truly worthy 
of mankind. 

'In this splendid gathering of hopes, duties, and deter- 
mination, we are accordingly ready for every sacrifice which 
may be demanded by an alliance that can never be broken 
by intrigue nor weakness. 

'The noble spirit which animates us must be translated 
into action. The order of the day is work. Let us get to 


During the days that preceded and followed the opening 
session of the Interallied Conference, while the experts of the 
War Mission were engaged in their technical committee 


work, Colonel House was busied with a multitude of con- 
versations, some personal, some political, all of them calcu- 
lated to give him information for the use of the President. 
* A perfect whirlpool/ he wrote on November 30. ' Constant 
conferences with Lloyd George, Balfour, the two Japanese 
Ambassadors, Baron Chinda of London and his confrere 
here [Matsui], General Pershing, Horodyski, Shulski, the 
Liberian Minister, General Bliss, Admiral Benson, and the 
different members of the Mission.' He discussed with Joseph 
Willard, Ambassador to Spain, the peace feelers which Ger- 
mans were sending through Madrid. With Tardieu and 
Clementel he talked over the plans to threaten Germany with 
an economic embargo after the war as a means of bringing 
her to reasonable terms. 1 He listened to General Foch's re- 
port on the military situation. 'He has just returned from 
Italy and tells me that the Italian line will hold where it is 
now until spring. He said: "It is again glued together."' 

With Clemenceau, P6tain, and Pershing, Colonel House 
talked over the conditions under which the American troops 
in France could bring the most useful assistance. House 
recognized immediately the ability of the French Prime 

'I may change my mind before I leave Paris, but it seems 
to me now that Clemenceau is one of the ablest men I have 
met in Europe, not only on this trip but on any of the others. 
There can be no doubt of his great courage and his unusual 
ability. ... He said if the Americans do not permit the 
French to teach them, the Germans will do so at great cost 

1 'They were surprised to learn/ wrote House, 'that I had already dis- 
cussed this question with the President and had suggested the same pro- 
cedure some weeks ago, and that it was probable the President would 
mention it in his forthcoming address to Congress.' On December 4, Mr. 
Wilson included in his Message the following sentence: 'It might be im- 
possible, also, in such untoward circumstances, to admit Germany to the 
free economic intercourse which must inevitably spring out of the other 
partnerships of a real peace.' 


of life. . . . General P6tain spoke frankly about the American 
army in France. He thought that the troops should go into 
the French army in companies and battalions and receive 
their training in that way. He had made a memorandum of 
subjects he wished to discuss with me. . . . l 

'Pershing discussed the French and British desire to have 
our troops go into their ranks for training. He thought the 
situation might require it, but he was of the opinion that if 
the American troops went in, very few of them would ever 
come out, and that it would be foolish to expect to build up 
a great American army by that method. He was very fair 
and open-minded about this.' 

In the mean time Admiral Benson had reached at least 
tentative conclusions as to the part that should be played by 
the United States Navy during the coming spring. It was 
agreed that the plan for attacking the German fortified 
ports, * destroying the hornets' nest,' as Mr. Wilson had 
called it, was not feasible, although the more westerly sub- 
marine bases, such as Ostend and Zeebrugge, might be 
raided. The American suggestion for a mine barrage in the 
North Sea was approved. What the Allies most ardently de- 
sired was the greatest possible number of destroyers for con- 
voy duty, since upon the safe transportation of a large 
American army would depend all the military plans for 1918. 

All these discussions Colonel House evidently hoped 
would be crystallized into a definite plan at the session of the 
Supreme War Council which was opened at Versailles on 
December 1, under the presidency of M. Clemenceau. 

'At 9.45 General Bliss and I,' wrote House, 'started for 

Versailles. The Supreme War Council was held in the 

1 The Pfetain Memorandum is printed in the appendix to this chapter. 


Trianon Palace Hotel, and Clemenceau and Orlando were 
already there when we arrived. Clemenceau and I went up- 
stairs for a conference and to outline a programme before the 
Council convened. Before Lloyd George came, Clemenceau 
showed considerable excitement concerning the relative 
lengths of the British and French lines on the front, declaring 
that an adjustment must be made and that he would not 
permit the British to evade the issue. He said he would 
resign from the French Ministry if an adjustment satis- 
factory to France was not made. 1 At that point Lloyd 
George came in and the three of us agreed upon a pro- 

* First, we discussed the length of the lines which France 
and Great Britain were to hold on the Western Front. I did 
not commit myself on this, stating it was a matter for them 
to determine among themselves, since the United States as 
yet had no line. 2 

* We next discussed Italy and our war policy there. Then 
came Greece, and later, Rumania. 

'After this private conference was finished, we descended 
to the larger conference room. . . . 

'General Bliss and I agreed not to take any positive posi- 
tion, but to listen and get information. We feel that it is 
not in good taste to do more at this time, since we have no 
men on the firing line. When our army is here in numbers, 
then it will be another story. Questions of general policy, 
finance, munitions, and all economic problems we feel at 
liberty to take an active part in, but as to military plans, 

1 According to Sir Henry Wilson's diary, M. Clemenceau some days 
later told him that unless the British took over to Berry-au-Bac he would 
resign. 'The old man was difficult/ wrote Wilson. 'He raged against the 
English, and then fastened on Haig and in a minor degree Robertson. 9 
Callwell, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, n, 41. 

1 This discussion continued through the winter. Clemenceau and Foch 
desired the British to extend their front to Berry-au-Bac. Pfetain was 
content with Barisis on the left bank of the Oise, to which village General 
Gough's Fifth Army took over during January. 


other than naval, it seems best to remain in the background 
and listen/ 

The French Prime Minister opened the session with a 
speech, the substance of which was much more in accord 
with the particular ideas of Mr. Lloyd George than those of 
M. Clemenceau. According to the plan outlined, each Gov- 
ernment should secure the opinions of its own General Staff 
and transmit them without delay to the permanent military 
advisers of the Council, who after studying the military 
situation as a whole should make recommendations as to the 
military operations to be undertaken in 1918. He drew 
special attention to the situation in Russia, in Italy, and in 
the Balkans, to the prospective cooperation of the American 
forces, to the question of tonnage and shipbuilding and their 
effect upon man-power available for the armies. He re- 
minded the military advisers not to lose sight of the fact that 
the war had become largely one of exhaustion and that even 
if Russia had succumbed, at any rate for the present, both 
Turkey and Austria were not far from a collapse. Then came 
an allusion to the favorite strategical plan of Lloyd George. 
M. Clemenceau suggested that perhaps Prussian militarism 
could best be overcome by first crushing Germany's allies, 
and reserving the crushing of Germany herself for a cul- 
minating effort when the whole of the Allied forces could be 
concentrated against her. He also emphasized the inter- 
national character of the military committee of the Council, 
reminding the military advisers that their task was to study 
the problem before them from the point of view of the Allies 
as a whole and not as representatives of separate countries 
and to submit their recommendations in a collective form. 

To such an extent the creation of the Supreme War Coun- 
cil was a step, although a hesitating step, towards unity of 
military purpose. At least one definite achievement of value 
was secured when the Council proceeded to pass a series of 


resolutions, according to which the separate Governments 
agreed to furnish the military advisers with full information 
of a general political and departmental character; the resolu- 
tions provided also that the General Staffs and the Min- 
istries of War, the Ministries of Marine and Shipping, the 
Foreign Offices, the Departments of Munitions, Aviation, 
Finance, and the like, of the separate Governments should 
furnish all information that might aid the studies of the 
military advisers of the Supreme War Council. Thus if the 
new body did not result in immediate unity of military con- 
trol, it at least provided for the centralizing and correlating 
of information. 

The remainder of the session was taken up with a rather 
desultory discussion, regarding the amount of assistance 
needed by Italy, and the situation at Saloniki, of which, said 
Clemenceau, 'we know very little, or at any rate what we do 
know is not very favorable/ M. Venizelos entered to explain 
the situation in Greece, and, giving the delegates rather a 
lengthy historical exposition as to background, was brought 
to realities by Sir William Robertson's terse question: 'How 
many divisions can you give us?' It was agreed that Greece 
had not received the assistance she might have expected 
(Lloyd George spoke of the 'unintelligence' of the treatment 
meted out to her), and a resolution was passed promising 
study of the Balkan military situation and advances of food, 
military equipment, and money. ' I hope,' said Lloyd George 
to M. Venizelos, ' that you will go back to Greece with a good 

Altogether the Supreme War Council at this session passed 
eight resolutions, of which four concerned the securing of 
information for the military advisers, the others providing for 
investigation of the military problems connected with the 
Italian, Belgian, and Balkan fronts. 1 It was obviously neces- 
sary that such investigation should be made before recom- 

1 Text of resolutions is given in the appendix to this chapter. 


mendations for action could be drafted. Nevertheless Colo- 
nel House could not escape a sense of disappointment that 
Allied conferences seemed to result in academic study rather 
than definite plans. 

'December 1, 1917: While a good many subjects were 
brought before the Conference, not one, I think, was brought 
to a conclusion. I can understand quite readily why Ger- 
many has been able to withstand the Allies so successfully. 
She has no superior ability, but she has superior organization 
and method. Nothing is buttoned up with the Allies; it is all 
talk and no concerted action. The changes of Government 
are partly responsible, but lack of coordination and decision 
are the chief obstacles. . . . 

'Clemenceau, Petain, and Bliss did more in our conference 
of last week than was done at the Supreme War Council, for 
we at least determined how many American soldiers should 
come to France, when they should come, and how to get 
them here. We also planned a real Military War Council. . . . 

'Lloyd George and Reading dined alone with me. We had 
a pleasant evening together. They were both in good form 
and George was happy over the conclusion of the Conference. 
Just why he was happy, excepting that the Conference had 
adjourned and he was returning to England, is more than I 
can fathom, for certainly we have not done one half of what 
should have been done. The Supreme War Council has 
taken up but few of the matters which properly should have 
come before it, and instead of sitting for one morning it 
should have sat for a week/ 


The Allied Governments were careful to picture the Paris 
Conference as strictly a war council, and the various sugges- 
tions that emanated from irresponsible pacifists were sedu- 
lously quashed. In this President Wilson was thoroughly in 


accord with the European Allies. Now that the United 
States had entered the war there was no one who took a 
stronger stand than he against an inconclusive peace which 
would leave Germany's imperial power intact. In a speech 
at Buffalo, shortly after the departure of the House Mission, 
he made plain his conviction that the only way to end the 
war was to defeat Germany. 

'What I am opposed to/ said Wilson, 'is not the feeling of 
the pacifists, but their stupidity. My heart is with them, but 
my mind has a contempt for them. I want peace, but I know 
how to get it and they do not. You will notice that I sent 
a friend of mine, Colonel House, to Europe, who is as great 
a lover of peace as any man in the world, but I didn't send 
him on a peace mission yet. I sent him to take part in a con- 
ference as to how the war was to be won, and he knows, as I 
know, that that is the way to get peace if you want it for 
more than a few minutes/ 

Nevertheless the question of peace negotiations was raised 
at Paris, and, as always, revolved around the possibility of 
detaching Austria from the German alliance. Ever since the 
peace proposal of the Pope, in August, there had been talk 
of secret peace negotiations, none of which, however, had 
been taken very seriously by the Allied Governments. A 
note of the British Ambassador at the Vatican, to the effect 
that Great Britain could not answer the Pope's proposal 
until Germany made clear her intentions with regard to 
Belgium, was understood in Germany to represent a ten- 
tative offer. Germany proceeded to lay down conditions, 
which were transmitted to the Spanish Minister in Belgium 
and from Madrid were passed on to London. Mr. Balfour 
had immediately cabled to Colonel House the sense of the 
proposal and asked him to obtain the President's opinion as 
to how it should be treated. Mr. Wilson approved a cable 


which House had drafted for Balfour, to the effect that the 
British could not discuss the matter without consulting the 
other Allies, and 'as so many insincere efforts for peace have 
already been put out semi-officially, you could not even 
consult your co-belligerents until a more definite proposal is 
made/ l A reply in this sense, after being approved by the 
Allied Ambassadors in London, was returned and the affair 

At the same time Germany was endeavoring to initiate 
secret negotiations through Baron Lancken, German High 
Civil Commissioner in Belgium, who made the suggestion 
that he hold conversations with no less a person than Aristide 
Briand, former Prime Minister. Briand was personally con- 
vinced that the overtures proceeded from a responsible 
source, probably from the Kaiser, and he told the French 
Government that he would be willing to attempt the mission. 
He made it plain to the agent bringing the suggestion from 
Lancken that no Frenchman would even think of under- 
taking conversations without an agreement among all the 
Allies and without knowing definitely that Germany was 
entirely disposed to concede Alsace-Lorraine to France; he 
had received the intimation within a fortnight that Ger- 
many thus understood the conditions of discussion. 

In a letter to Ribot, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Briand 
laid the apparent willingness of Germany to make broad 
concessions before the French Government; he was himself 
so far convinced of German anxiety for peace that he offered 
to undertake unofficial negotiations which would not bind 
the Government, but which would determine definitely 
whether this was a serious proposition or a trap. Ribot, how- 
ever, was suspicious, and the representatives of the other 
Allies, as well as Mr. Lansing, to whom the sense of Briand's 

1 Balfour to House, October 5, 1917; House to Wilson, October 5, 1917; 
Wilson to House, October 7, 1917. Reference is made to the proposal in 
The Ordeal of a Diplomat. 167-68, by Nabokoff, Russian Charg6 in 


letter was communicated, declined to follow the matter 
up. 1 

In the mean time negotiations had been in progress be- 
tween an Austrian and a French representative of the Gen- 
eral Staff, which the Allied politicians watched with rather 
more interest; they hoped for the possibility of a separate 
peace with Austria, however firm they might be in their 
determination to make no peace with an unbeaten Germany. 
These Armand-Revertera negotiations had been begun dur- 
ing the summer, and were still in progress when the Clemen- 
ceau Ministry came into power. The new Premier told 
Armand to * listen but to say nothing.' The Italians were 
naturally opposed to any conversations with Austria, for it 
was at the expense of Austria that they hoped to fulfill their 
war aims. 

To Lloyd George the thought of detaching Austria was 
always attractive, and he seized the opportunity offered by 
the informal conferences at Paris to broach it to his col- 
leagues. Colonel House indicated mild approval, although he 
was not enthusiastic. He was ever willing to investigate any 
method which might end the war, provided it did not leave 
German militarism in political control and made possible the 
establishment of an international organization capable of 
maintaining a just settlement. He agreed with Briand that 
it was a mistake not to have gone more thoroughly into the 
Lancken proposals. He did not have much confidence, how- 
ever, in the plan of separating Austria from Germany, and 
he was beginning to approach the view he later held firmly, 
that a solid peace could not be made so long as the Hapsburg 
Empire remained. 

' November 29, 1917: After lunch, Lloyd George asked to 
see me again. He proposed that we should find out what 
Austria's peace terms are. Austria has made several ad- 

1 Ribot, Lettres d. un ami. Souvenirs de ma vie politique, 289-97. 


vances to the British, who have insisted that the terms be 
put in writing. George asked if I would back him if he 
insisted that this latest offer of Austria should be probed. I 
cheerfully acquiesced. ... A conference was held in Pichon's 
room with Clemenceau, Pichon, de Margerie, representing 
France; Lloyd George, Balfour, and Addison representing 
Great Britain; Orlando and Sonnino representing Italy. . . . 

'George precipitated the discussion by making a vehe- 
ment argument in favor of investigating the Austrian peace 
feeler. Sonnino at once resented this and, for a moment, it 
looked as if there would be a first-class row. I backed Lloyd 

George as I had promised We finally got Sonnino and 

Orlando to consent to the proposal. 

'We were in conference for something like two hours and a 

half George made an able argument, every word of 

which I endorsed, but it was done too precipitately. If we 
had first seen Clemenceau and gotten him in line, and then 
talked with Sonnino alone, the matter could have been set- 
tled in a few minutes and without causing any feeling. At 
one time it looked as if the Latins would line up against the 
Anglo-Saxons, but finally Clemenceau came over on our side 
and Sonnino and Orlando succumbed/ 

Colonel House to the President 


PARIS, November 30, 1917 

Yesterday afternoon at a conference of the Prime Min- 
isters and Foreign Secretaries of England, France, and Italy 
in which I sat, England was authorized to instruct her repre- 
sentatives in Switzerland to ascertain what terms Austria 
had to offer for a separate peace, which she has indicated a 
desire to make 

This action was taken because of the probability of Russia 
soon making a separate peace. 



'December 1, 1917: Lloyd George and I walked together 
from the Foreign Office to the Hotel de Crillon. He was full 
of the proposed peace with Austria 

* After dinner we [House, Lloyd George, and Reading] took 
up the question of Reading going to Switzerland to meet a 
representative of the Austrian Government to discuss the 

making of peace with Austria Reading thought it would 

not do for him to go because every one would wonder what 
the Lord Chief Justice of England was doing in Switzer- 
land ' 

All plans for peace negotiations with Austria were doomed 
to failure, regardless of the ability of the negotiators. Instead 
of Lord Reading, General Smuts was sent to Switzerland, 
where he met the former Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to 
Great Britain, Count Mensdorff . Their conversations were 
quite inconclusive. The Austrian Government was sincerely 
anxious for peace; the Dual Monarchy had nothing to gain 
and everything to lose by the prolongation of the war. But 
it sought a general peace including Germany; it was unable 
even if it had been willing to separate its fortunes from those , 
of the German Empire. Austria was equally unprepared fon 
the sacrifices which the Allies, especially Italy, demanded. 4 
Negotiations in one form or another continued into the fol- 
lowing spring, but at no time did they indicate a serious 
chance of a successful outcome. 1 


Equally abortive was the effort made by Colonel House 
to persuade the European Allies to issue a joint statement of 
war aims, which would weaken German propaganda and help 
the Allies to maintain friendly relations with Russia. Such 
a step, he maintained, was the more necessary because of the 
Bolshevik peace proposals and the increasing demand on the 

1 See below, Chapter XII. 


part of liberal and labor elements in Allied countries for an 
assurance that the war was not being continued for im- 
perialistic ends. The letter of Lord Lansdowne to the Daily 
Telegraphy published on November 29, summarized this 
feeling. 1 

On December 3, Colonel House had a long conversation 
with Aristide Briand, in which the French statesman devel- 
oped the thesis that the Allies were losing an opportunity to 
weaken Germany in the moral sense and also to define the 
essentially just conditions on which peace might be made. 
Briand was no defeatist, and was always convinced that the 
war must end by the breaking of German military power. 
But he wished to use brains as well as force. 

Germany, he told Colonel House, had prosecuted the war 
both from a military and an ideological point of view; as re- 
gards the latter, she had shown greater intelligence than the 
Allies by constantly keeping before her people the one idea 
that she was fighting to prevent her economic extinction and 
to preserve her territory from dismemberment. She had 
neglected no opportunity to impress upon her people that 
they must continue to fight, because if the Allies were suc- 
cessful the condition of the German people would become one 
of abject servitude, through an economic domination over 
Germany and by the obligations which the people would be 
obliged to assume in the enormous financial burden placed 
upon a dismembered Germany. 

It was necessary, said Briand, that their war aims should 
be formulated by the Allies in a concrete form, so that they 

1 Lord Lansdowne argued that negotiations might be attempted with 
Germany on the basis of certain guarantees, which he believed would en- 
able the German liberals to overcome the imperialists; that the Allies 
were not seeking the annihilation of Germany as a great power; that she 
should be left the choice of her own form of government; that the Allies 
did not plan to destroy her commercial future; that they would, after the 
war, consider the questions connected with the freedom of the seas; that 
they would enter an association to settle disputes by peaceful methods. 
See above, p. 232, Colonel House's interview with Lansdowne. 


could say to Germany: 'Here are our war aims, this is what 
we are fighting for; if you are willing to accept them we will 
have peace to-morrow/ He developed at some length his 
belief that a declaration of this kind, properly spread among 
the peoples of the Central Empires, would result in their 
urging or even compelling their Governments to undertake 
peace negotiations. 

Colonel House was thoroughly in accord with the prin- 
ciple of Briand's suggestions. Only by a clear statement of 
revised war aims could the moral power of German defense 
be weakened. More positively it was important for Allied 
peoples to realize that the problem of the future settlement 
was different now from what it had been at the time the 
secret treaties were contracted. 'The future security of the 
world depended less upon juggling with boundaries than 
upon the destruction of Germany's power of offense. If the 
evil thing in Germany remained, no adjustment of territory 
would safeguard civilization; if it disappeared, such adjust- 
ment fell into its proper place as a means towards the greater 
end, to be applied with the concurrence and good will of the 
whole world/ l House had already written to President 
Wilson from London of his hope that for such reasons the 
Allies would agree upon a joint statement of liberal war aims. 2 

But House found that Mr. Lloyd George was committed ' 
too far to the British Conservatives to join enthusiastically ' 
in a plan for a liberal restatement of war aims, and at Paris 
the atmosphere was wholly unsympathetic. Clemenceau had 
undertaken his Ministry with the motto, 'Jefais la guerre, 9 
and feared lest such a manifesto on war aims might be re- 
garded as a suggestion of pacifism. The Italians were dogged 
in their opposition and in their insistence upon the Treaty of 
London. Colonel House thus discovered that all he could 
hope for was to prevent any announcement of an imperial- 

1 Buchan, op. cit. 9 iv, 156. 

1 House to Wilson, November 11, 1917. 


istic nature, and to secure, perhaps, a mild general restate- 
ment of war aims, not so liberal as he had desired, which 
might serve to reassure the Russians. He was also able to 
prevent the formulation of a policy, demanded by certain 
groups among the French and British, of assisting the anti- 
Bolshevik factions in Russia; a policy, he believed, which 
would merely unite war-weary Russia behind the faction 
that offered peace. 

Colonel House to the President 


PARIS, November 25, 1917 

... I am refusing to be drawn into any of their [Allied] 
controversies, particularly those of a territorial nature. We 
must, I think, hold to the broad principles you have laid 
down and not get mixed up in the small and selfish ones. 1 



PARIS, November 28, 1917 

There have been cabled over and published here state- 
ments made by American papers to the effect that Russia 
should be treated as an enemy. It is exceedingly important 
that such criticisms should be suppressed. It will throw 
Russia into the lap of Germany if the Allies and ourselves 
express such views at this time. 


Colonel House to the President 


PARIS, November 30, 1917 

I intend to offer this resolution for approval of the Inter- 
allied Conference: 

1 Comment by Sir William Wiseman on this cable: 'If that had only 
been followed at the Peace Conference I ' 


'The Allies and the United States declare that they are 
not waging war for the purpose of aggression or indemnity. 
The sacrifices they are making are in order that militarism 
shall not continue to cast its shadow over the world, and 
that nations shall have the right to lead their lives in the 
way that seems to them best for the development of their 
general welfare/ 

If you have any objections please answer immediately. It 
is of vast importance that this be done. The British have 
agreed to vote for it. 


President Wilson immediately replied, cabling his endorse- 
ment of House's proposal. The paraphrase of his cable runs 
as follows: 

Paraphrase of Wilson's Cable to House 

WASHINGTON, December 1, 1917 

The resolution you suggest is entirely in line with my 
thought and has my approbation. You will realize how de- 
sirable it is for the Conference to discuss terms of peace in a 
spirit conforming with my January address to the Senate. 1 
Our people and Congress will not fight for any selfish aims 
on the part of any belligerent, with the possible exception 
of Alsace-Lorraine. Territorial aspirations must be left for 
decision of all, at Peace Conference, especially plans for divi- 
sion of territory such as have been contemplated in Asia 
Minor. 2 I think it will be obvious to all that it would be a 
fatal mistake to cool the ardor in America. 

Colonel House found it impossible, however, to persuade 
the Conference to agree upon even the mild resolution he 

1 The speech of January 22, 1917. 

1 These plans were crystallized in the secret treaties of 1915, 1916, and 
1917: the Sazonoff-Pal&ologue Agreement, the Sykes-Picot Treaty, the 
Treaty of Saint-Jean de Maurienne. 


had drafted. They were not ready to resign the hopes of 
territorial acquisitions. The Italian delegates, in particular, 
regarded the most general statement as dangerous, since it 
might imply that the Allies were released from the promises 
they had made Italy in 1915. 

'November 30, 1917: Baron Sonnino was as difficult to-day 
as he was yesterday. He is an able man, but a reactionary. 
... If his advice should carry, the war would never end, for 
he would never consent to any of the things necessary to 
make a beginning toward peace. . . . 

* It was primarily a discussion as to what statement should 
be sent Russia. Balfour read a despatch from the British 
Ambassador at Petrograd, strongly recommending that the 
Allies release Russia from her promise to continue the war, 
giving his reasons for thinking this would be good policy. 
This brought violent opposition from Sonnino and a some- 
what milder objection from Clemenceau. We finally sent for 
the Russian Ambassador here and asked his opinion. He 
decided against such a reply as the British Ambassador at 
Petrograd suggested, but recommended practically what I 
had proposed. It was finally decided to ask the Russian Am- 
bassador to draw up a memorandum of what attitude he 
thought we should take and report to-morrow. 

'I shall push to a conclusion to-morrow or next day my 
suggestion that this Conference state the Allied war aims, 
in some such terms as I outlined in my cable to the President. 

'I feel a deep sympathy for the soldiers and sailors of the 
Allied nations who are dependent upon those of us here to 
give proper direction to the cause for which they are fighting. 
We are not doing all we could, and I realize it every time we 

meet in conference There is so little thought of aiding 

the military situation by diplomacy of a sane and helpful sort. 

'December 1, 1917 : The Lord Chief Justice and I had a long 
discussion on the Lansdowne letter and its effect upon the 


British political situation. I thought Lloyd George was mak- 
ing a mistake in not insisting upon the resolution regarding 
a statement of our war aims. He could take the wind out 
of the sails of his opponents at home if he would join in 
pressing the Conference to do what seems to me so necessary 

at this time 1 called his attention to the lack of any 

[diplomatic] programme. The conferences we have with 
Clemenceau and Orlando are not fruitful of results, and the 
reason is that George and I never reach Clemenceau before- 
hand. It is perfectly hopeless trying to get Sonnino into any- 
thing progressive or constructive 

c ln our conference to-day various matters came up. The 
principal one was the resolution I had proposed. The Rus- 
sian Ambassador was present and brought in several resolu- 
tions, any of which he thought would be of value to the 
Russian situation. Lloyd George tried to embody a part of 
what the Russian Ambassador said and all of what I had 

proposed It seemed to suit George, but it did not suit j 

me. Sonnino then tried his conservative hand, and all the 
Conference approved excepting myself. I stated that in no 
event would the United States sign it; that they might draw 
up a resolution to suit themselves and sign it, but that the 
United States must rest just where we were now, that is, 
upon the broad constructive and progressive statements 
which the President had from time to time made. 

'This threw the resolution in the "scrap-heap" because 
every one there knew that without the support of the United 
States it would be less than useless.' l 

Colonel House to the President 


PARIS, December 2, 1917 

There have been long and frequent discussions as to 
Russia, but the result has not been satisfactory to me. I 

1 See appendix to this chapter for text of proposed resolutions. 


wanted a clear declaration along the lines of my cable to you 
of Friday. England passively was willing, France indiffer- 
ently against it, Italy actively so. They were all willing to 
embody what I suggested if certain additions were made to 
which I could not agree. It was decided finally that each 
Power should send its own answer to its Ambassador at 
Petrograd, the substance of each answer to be that the 
Allies were willing to reconsider their war aims in conjunc- 
tion with Russia and as soon as she had a stable government 
with whom they could act. 

The Russian Ambassador at Paris believes it of great im- 
portance that you send a message to Russia through Francis l 
or otherwise, letting them know of the disinterested motives 
of the United States and of its desire to bring a disorderly 
world into a fraternity of nations for the good of all and for 
the aggrandizement of none. 2 


From the inability of the Interallied Conference to agree 

1 American Ambassador to Russia. 

* It is not certain that Mr. Wilson received this cable before he finished 
his Message to Congress delivered on December 4. The following passage 
in that Message corresponds closely to the statement which the Russian 
Ambassador wished the President to send. 'The wrongs,' said Mr. Wil- 
son, 'the very deep wrongs committed in this war will have to be righted. 
That of course. But they cannot and must not be righted by the com- 
mission of similar wrongs against Germany and her allies. . . . Statesmen 
must by this time have learned that the opinion of the world is every- 
where wide awake and fully comprehends the issues involved The 

congress that concludes this war will feel the full strength of the tides that 
run now in the hearts and consciences of free men everywhere. Its con- 
clusions will run with those tides. 

4 All these things have been true from the very beginning of this stu- 
pendous war; and I cannot help thinking that if they had been made 
plain at the very outset the sympathy and enthusiasm of the Russian 
people might have been once for all enlisted on the side of the allies, sus- 
picion and distrust swept away, and a real and lasting union of purpose 

effected The Russian people have been poisoned by the very same 

falsehoods that have kept the German people in the dark, and the poison 
has been administered by the very same hands. The only possible anti- 
dote is the truth.' 


upon a restatement of the war aims of the Entente in a liberal 
sense sprang the Fourteen Points. Colonel House was con- 
vinced that before the war ended, a definite and a liberal 
basis of peace should be agreed upon, partly as a means 
towards ending the war, partly to ensure a liberal peace. 
If the Allies would not formulate such a basis, he hoped that 
it would be undertaken by Wilson. 

On December 1 he cabled the President, 'I hope you will 
not think it necessary to make any statement concerning 
foreign affairs until I can see you. This seems to me very 
important/ On the copy of the cable is endorsed in his own 
hand, 'I sent this cable to the President because I had in 
mind his making a statement giving our war aims. I tried 
to get this done at Paris, but failed. The next best thing 
was for the President to do it/ 

Almost the first subject which House broached upon his 
return to Washington was this, and within three weeks the 
Fourteen Points were drafted. 




December 6, 1917 
Training of the American Army 

It is necessary to hasten the training of the American army, both in the 
United States and in France, for the purpose of rendering its cooperation 
more rapid. 

a) In America 

General P6tain is prepared to send to the United States, if it should be 
necessary, supplementary Infantry instructors experienced in warfare. 

An analogous measure for Artillery does not seem applicable by reason 
of the complications which the transportation of war material to the 
United States would involve. Artillery training must therefore take 
place in France. It is for that reason that it is necessary that the first 
group of divisions transported should include artillery. 

b) In France 

The training of the Companies, men, officers and subalterns, seems to 
be going well. The only thing lacking is the practice which can only be 
acquired in the sector. 


Practice can rapidly be obtained at good advantage if the American 
army would, for a very short time, waive their feeling of national pride 
and depend completely upon the experience of the French army. Such 
practice would be the fruit of slower and more costly efforts if, desirous of 
flying too soon with its own wings, the American army gains its appren- 
ticeship by receiving the lessons which the enemy will not fail to give it. 

If the first of these methods is adopted it will be necessary: 

For the Company 

1. To continue its training at the rear in contact with large French 
units and not by means of isolated instructors, as General Pershing had 

2. To place the American army in a sector, not all at once in large 
units, but by fractions composed of: Regiments of Infantry, Groups of 
Artillery, . . . placed in the frame (cadre) of a large French unit. 

This would be the case for each unit, for several weeks, up to the date 
when every one: chiefs of the units, frames (cadres), and men from the 
ranks, should have acquired the necessary experience. 

For the frames [Cadres] 

To have the general officers, Superior and of the Staff, whose training 
should be as complete as possible, execute numerous and prolonged peri- 
ods of exercise, either before the arrival of their troops in France, or dur- 
ing the time that their troops are in the sector, under the conditions 
mentioned in the preceding paragraph. 

Conditions of Effective Cooperation of the American Army 
This will take place with the maximum of speed if the dispositions 

above indicated are carried out. 
American units of aviation, isolated units, could thus enter into action 

as soon as possible without waiting until the training of the large units 

is considered completely terminated. There are two reasons why this 

should be the case: 

1. Military 

All of the Allies should put the maximum of their forces into line as 
soon as possible to meet the Russian failure; 

2. Political 

French public opinion, however great its admiration for the effort of 
the United States, would understand with difficulty why the effective 
manifestation of this effort should take so long in coming. 


December 1, 1917 

(1) They instruct their permanent Military Advisers to examine the 
military situation and to report their recommendations as to the future 
plan of operations: 

(2) In order to provide the Supreme War Council with the material for 
their examination the Governments represented undertake; 


(a) To supply the Supreme War Council with all such information of 
a general political and departmental character as is available for the war 
discussions of their own Cabinets or War Committees. This will include 
decisions of the Cabinets and War Committees relating to matters con- 
nected with the conduct of the War. 

(b) To instruct their Ministries of War and General Staffs to furnish 
the permanent Military Advisers with their views and policy, with fre- 
quent regular statements of the order of battle and dislocation of their 
own and Allied Forces, and immediate notification of transfers of larger 
Units from one theatre of operations to another; with frequent regular 
statements of the order of battle and dislocation of enemy forces, with 
the reports embodying their conclusions as to enemy man-power, mate- 
rial and enemy conditions generally, and with immediate notification of 
important transfers and concentrations; with regular reports as to the 
strength of their own forces and memoranda on man-power situation and 
prospects; with regular reports of the existing and prospective position in 
regard to war material, and Military transportation. Commanders of the 
forces on the various fronts will in order to save time, repeat their daily 
communiqu6 direct to the Supreme War Council. Their more important 
Reports, as well as those of Heads of Military Missions and Military At- 
tach&s will be forwarded to the Supreme War Council through the re- 
spective General Staffs. The whole of the above information to be fur- 
nished with the least possible delay, in order that the Military Representa- 
tives shall be able to discuss the questions that will be raised at the Su- 
preme War Council with a precise and up-to-date knowledge of the gen- 
eral military situation, and in complete touch with the views of their own 
Military Authorities. 

(c) To instruct their Ministries of Marine (Admiralty) and Shipping 
to furnish the Supreme War Council with reports memoranda and ap- 
preciations bearing on the general condition of the War, and more partic- 
ularly on problems affecting the transportation of troops and supplies. 

(d) To instruct their Foreign Offices to supply the Supreme War Coun- 
cil with a general appreciation of the diplomatic situation at the present 
time, and henceforward to furnish regularly, and in the most expeditious 
manner possible, full information, whether received by despatch or tele- 
gram, on all diplomatic matters in any way connected with the War. 

(e) To instruct their Departments dealing with Munitions, Aviation, 
Man-Power, Shipbuilding, Food (Stocks, Production and Distribution) 
and Finance, to furnish all the information necessary to enable the Su- 
preme War Council to appreciate the situation from these respective 
points of view; 

(3) In order to facilitate the reception and distribution of the informa- 
tion referred to above, each Section of the Supreme War Council will 
comprise a Permanent Secretarial Staff: 

(4) The Permanent Secretarial Staffs of the respective Countries will, 
in concert, organize a Joint Secretarial Bureau for the production and 
distribution of the notices, agenda, protocols, and procfes verbaux of the 
meetings of the Supreme War Council and for such other collective busi- 
ness as it may be found desirable to entrust to it. 


The Italian Front 

(5) The Supreme War Council instruct its permanent military advisers 
to study the immediate situation on the Italian front from the offensive 
as well as the defensive point of view, and to report to it as soon as pos- 
sible, at any rate, within the next fortnight. The permanent military 
advisers are directed to make their requests to the Governments con- 
cerned for all the information they require, and the representatives of the 
respective Governments undertake to arrange that the information shall 
be furnished at once. 

The Transport Problem, (a) General; (b) as affecting the Italian front. 

(6) The Supreme War Council decide that it is desirable that the whole 
question of Inter-Allied Transport by sea and land shall be examined by a 
single expert, who shall report to it on the subject at the earliest possible 
date. It agreed that, if the British Government can spare his services, 
Sir Eric Geddes should be designated to carry out this investigation, and 
that, in the first instance, he shall examine the transportation problem as 
affecting the Italian and Salonika situations. 

The representatives of the respective Governments undertake to give 
instructions to their technical experts and administrators to collaborate 
with Sir Eric Geddes, or, if his services cannot be made available, with 
such other expert as may be mutually agreed upon. 

The Belgian Army 

(7) The Supreme War Council instruct their permanent military ad- 
visers to examine and report on the utilization of the Belgian Army, and 
authorize them to apply to the Belgian Government, on their behalf, to 
furnish a report on the state of Belgian man-power. 

The Military Situation in the Balkans. The Supply of Greece. 

(8) The Supreme War Council decide: 

(a) To recommend to their respective Governments that the food and 
other essential requirements of Greece, the promised military equipment, 
and the necessary means for transporting the same shall be supplied as a 
matter of military urgency. 

(b) That its permanent military advisers shall follow up the question 
of the supply and equipment of the Greek Army. 

(c) That its permanent military advisers shall study and report on the 
military situation in the Balkans, on the basis of information to be fur- 
nished by the Governments concerned. 

(d) That the Governments concerned shall make the necessary finan- 
cial advances to enable Greece to mobilize not less than nine divisions, 
and the Supreme War Council further requests the financial delegates of 
France, Great Britain and the. United States of America to make, at once, 
the necessary arrangements for supplying Greece with the sum of 700,- 
000,000 Francs, in the course of the year 1918, so as to clear off arrears 
amounting to 175,000,000 Francs, and to enable Greece to mobilize im- 
mediately not less than nine divisions. 



December 1, 1917 
Proposition by M. Maklakoff 

The Allied Conference, since there is in Russia no regular, effective 
Government recognized by the nations, addresses itself to all the citizens. 

The Conference desires that every one in Russia should know that the 
Allies are determined to finish this war to the end but without any idea of 
conquest. Brought into the war by the odious militarism of Germany, 
they are fighting defensively and to assure peace upon the firm foundation 
of popular liberties. With this in mind, they will proceed to a revision of 
war aims together with Russia, so soon as there shall be a Government 
aware of its duties to the country and defending the interests of the coun- 
try and not of the enemy. 

Alternative proposition combining proposals by M. Maklakoff and Colonel 

The Conference of Paris while affirming the willingness of the Allies 
to pursue without relaxation the struggle against the common enemy 
until the establishment of a definite peace founded on the right of nations 
to liberty regrets that the absence in Russia of a regular Government 
recognized by the nation has not enabled it to submit in common to an 
exhaustive examination of the objects of the War. 

Nevertheless, the Allies and the United States declare that they are 
not waging war for the purpose of aggression or indemnity. The sacrifices 
they are making are in order that the sword shall not continue to cast its 
shadow over the world, and that nations shall have the right to lead their 
lives in the way that seems to them best for the development of their 
general welfare. 


If this war is to be won, better team work between the Allies must be 

Report of Colonel House to President Wilson, December 14, 1917 

THE Interallied Conference held its second and final plenary 
session on December 3, like the first purely formal in charac- 
ter and devoted to the brief reports of the expert committees. 
It was notable on the personal side in that it listened to one 
of the few speeches ever delivered by Colonel House, who 
had been asked by M. Clemenceau thus to close the Con- 
ference. He restrained his impulse to issue a public plea for 
a liberal revision of war aims, and limited his address to a 
couple of short paragraphs. 'I am writing something harm- 
less,' he confessed to his diary. 1 'I wish I could say what I 
would really like to say, but I do not dare to do so. More 

would be lost than could be gained I have determined to 

wait until my return and ask the President to say with all 
the authority back of him what ought to be said at this 
On the evening of December 6 the American Mission 

1 As delivered the speech fulfilled its purpose. Colonel House said: 
'M. Clemenceau, in welcoming the delegates to this Conference, de- 
clared that we had met to work. His words were prophetic. There have 
been coordination and unity of purpose which promise great results for 
the future. It is my deep conviction that by this unity and concentrated 
effort we shall be able to arrive at the goal which we have set out to 

4 In behalf of my colleagues I want to avail myself of this occasion to 
thank the officials of the French Government, and through them the 
French people, for the warm welcome and great consideration they have 
shown us. In coming to France we felt that we were coming to the house 
of our friends. Ever since our Government was founded there has been 
a bond of interest and sympathy between us a sympathy which this 
war has fanned into passionate admiration. The history of France is the 


slipped quietly out of Paris, 1 was taken to Brest by a circui- 
tous route, and the following day embarked upon the Mount 
Vernon, to face the labors that awaited them in the United 
States. 'Colby said to-day,' wrote Colonel House on Decem- 
ber 7, 'as the shores of France faded into the mist, "We 
have been so used to potentates and kings that the first 
thing we should do upon arrival in the United States is to 
take a week's course at Child's Restaurant, sitting on a 
stool, and getting down again to our own level." He thought 
also it would aid us in getting back to normal to take an 
upper berth on the midnight train from Washington to New 

The reference to 'potentates and kings' does not suggest 
the real achievements of the American War Mission. The 
conferences into which the technical experts had entered 
proved to be far more than a mere exchange of information. 
They had resulted in the drafting of a specific programme of 
economic coordination and established the machinery that 
was to put it into effect. It is difficult to overstate the sig- 
nificance of this accomplishment. 'Nations remember only 
the high spots of wars,' writes the High Commissioner for 
Franco-American Affairs. 'What did they grasp of the 
tragic period of 1917-18? The Rumanian disaster, Capo- 
retto, the British Fourth Army, the Chemin des Dames. 

history of courage and sacrifice. Therefore the great deeds which have 
illuminated the last three years have come as no surprise to us of Amer- 
ica. We knew that when called upon France would rise to splendid 
achievement and would add lustre to her name. America salutes France 
and her heroic sons, and feels honored to fight by the side of so gallant 
a comrade. 9 

1 'Of all the mole-like activities of Colonel House,' wrote Mr. Grasty 
in the New York Times on January 22, 1918, 'the climax was his depart- 
ure. . . . Only two persons knew the hour set for departure and where 
the party were going the Colonel and the naval commander in charge 

[Commander Andrew F. Carter] Perhaps the Colonel had made a 

quiet bet with himself on his ability to take the party of fifteen or twenty 
persons out of the most conspicuous setting in Paris without anybody 
being the wiser/ 


Were those the decisive events of the great struggle? No! 
The essential things were the problems of transportation, 
rotation of shipping and submarine sinkings, the financial 
problem, the problems of cooperation. Any shortcoming in 
the adjustment of effort, any breakdown in the machinery of 
supply, might have left our soldiers weaponless.' l It was in 
such terms that Colonel House judged the achievements of 
the Interallied Conference. 

'The good the Conference has done,' he wrote while still 
in Paris, 'in the way of coordinating the Allied resources, 
particularly the economic resources, can hardly be esti- 
mated. Heretofore, everything has been going pretty much 
at sixes and sevens. From now there will be less duplication 
of effort. What the United States can do better than Great 
Britain, France, or Italy we will do; what they can do better 
will be largely left to them. No one excepting those on the 
inside can know of the wasted effort there has been. This 
Conference may therefore well be considered the turning 
point in the war even though the fortunes of the Allies have 
never seemed so low as now/ 

For such an adjustment of war effort the American experts 
were chiefly responsible; they regarded it as their function 
to enforce it upon the Allies, who had thus far, among them- 
selves, failed in the American sense to bring the concentrated 
weight of their resources to bear in the struggle against 
Germany. The necessities of the situation were forcibly 
expressed in the following letter of Mr. Paul D. Cravath, 
legal adviser to the War Mission. 

1 Tardieu, France and America, 224. 


Mr. Cravath to Colonel House 

PARIS, December 6, 1917 

. . . There has been a ghastly lack of coordination between 
the Allies throughout the war both as to military and politi- 
cal action, resulting in an incalculable waste of lives and 
effort. While it seems to be generally recognized that, as the 
result of the collapse of Russia's military effort and the 
disaster in Italy, there is greater need than ever for a close 
and sympathetic coordination of the efforts of Great Britain, 
France, and Italy, very little real progress has thus far been 
made in accomplishing that result. This is due, in great 
measure, to the apparently ineradicable mutual suspicion 
and differences in temperament and method between the 
British and the French. The relations with Italy are compli- 
cated by her own peculiar ambitions in the war which make 
full cooperation between her and France and England very 

My observations lead me to believe that the recent con- 
ferences in Paris would have accomplished very little in the 
direction of the arrangements for coordinated effort had it 
not been for the presence of the American delegates and 
their patient but firm insistence upon conclusions being 
reached while the conferences were together. It would be 
difficult to overstate the good which you and your Mission 
have thus accomplished although the work of forcing effec- 
tive coordination has only begun. 

I am convinced that there cannot be an effective organi- 
zation and coordination of the efforts and resources of the 
United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy for the 
winning of the war until the United States is represented 
here on the ground by an important representative in every 
department of effort with the capacity and authority to 
make prompt decisions in consultation with the home 
Government and to force an agreement between the British, 


French, and Italians on the important questions both politi- 
cal, economic, and military, which will constantly arise. 
Indeed I think there should be duplicate organizations for 
London and Paris each headed by an able man supported 
by an adequate staff. . . . 

The British and the French realize the need of the active 
intervention of the Americans and will welcome it. 1 Indeed 
one is startled by the almost universal feeling among the 
statesmen of both countries that they must look to the 
United States for the leadership and energy which are 
necessary for the winning of the war. We therefore have not 
only the power to enforce our decisions but there is a willing- 
ness to accept them. This is a terrible responsibility that 
our entrance into the war has forced upon us but it must be 
accepted to the limit if the war is to be conducted effec- 
tively. . . . 

With best wishes, I am as ever 

Very sincerely yours 


The Americans themselves, so far as their national organi- 
zation was concerned, yielded to the necessity of centrali- 
zation despite their general repugnance to it, and they 
demanded the same of the Allies in the international 
organization. They vested control in the various boards 
that ruled American industrial life with an iron despotism. 

'These domineering controllers of the economic and 
intellectual life of the United States,' wrote Tardieu, 'left 
a bad taste in the mouths of many citizens; yet they were 
the price of victory. Thanks to their control, a market 
glutted with orders, a market in which unbridled competi- 
tion had led to an insane increase in prices, was reduced to 
order within a few weeks, with equality of treatment for all 

1 This conclusion does not entirely coincide with M. Tardieu's opinion. 


and a general fall in prices. Every need of America, every 
need of Europe, was satisfied. Demand here and supply 
there were adjusted to one another. Government, taking 
over factories and regulating transportation, became the 
absolute master of all production and distribution. An 
undreamed-of America was being created for the purpose of 

"This new America imposed the same law of uniformity 
upon its associates. . . . When Americans fall in love with an 
idea, even if their enthusiasm does not last, it is always 
intense. In 1917 and 1918, they had a passion for the organi- 
zation of interallied war machinery, the weight of which was 
not always borne gladly by Europe. McAdoo did not 
succeed in forcing absolute financial unity, although with 
Northcliffe and myself he had drawn up plans for it, and 
doubtless the debtors lost more than the creditors. But in 
every other field the Americans finally had their way. After 
America's entry into the war, the interallied boards in 
London and Paris, boards of control for steel, wood, oil, 
wheat, food, shipping, assumed their definite form and 
produced their best results. After four years of experiment 
and dispersion, control reached something in the nature of 
perfection towards the end of 1918. Had the war lasted 
another year, the machinery would have been running with 
incredible smoothness.' * 

The historian disposed to wax ironical would probably 
observe that one great problem had been settled not by 
human ingenuity but rather by the force of events. The 
chief anxiety of the Allies in the summer of 1917 had been 
whether the United States could advance the credits that 
seemed necessary; their chief disappointment had been the 
unwillingness to promise the monthly half-billion desired. 
Mr. McAdoo would make no promises until Allied demands 

1 Tardieu, France and America, 234. 


were coordinated. But by the end of the autumn the Allies 
no longer could use the credits which the United States was 
willing to advance, for the reason that the materials to be 
purchased by the Allies in America were not available. As 
Lord Reading had foreseen, a limit was placed upon Allied 
loans not by American incapacity to lend, but because the 
American market was unable to supply the tremendous 
demands for materials of both the American and Allied 
armies. You cannot spend money when the articles you 
want to buy are lacking. 

This fact robbed of much of its significance the creation, 
immediately after the Paris Conference, of the Interallied 
Council on War Purchases and Finance. This council 
represented the nearest possible approach to the American 
Treasury's solution of the problem of confusion in Allied 
demands for financial aid. Sitting in London and Paris, 
under the presidency of the American representative, Mr. 
Crosby, it was designed to coordinate purchases by the 
Allies, to serve as a clearing house for information as to 
Allied needs for funds, and to develop a unified policy 
relating to loans that might be made to the Allies by the 
United States. It worked in cooperation with the Supreme 
War Council and other interallied councils. 

As a result of the Paris Conference there were also created 
an Interallied Munitions Council, an Interallied Petroleum 
Conference, an Interallied Food Council, an Allied Mari- 
time Transport Council. The Munitions Council was not 
effectively organized until the following summer, but the 
others came into active operation early in 1918. The Food 
Council, composed of the representatives of the food 
controllers of the Allied countries, was designed primarily 
to allocate stocks of food and prepare transport programmes. 
The Maritime Transport Council, seated in London, was to 
supervise the general conduct of Allied transport, and to 
obtain the most effective use of tonnage, while leaving each 


nation responsible for the management of the tonnage under 
its control. Various other organs of interallied cooperation 
developed afterwards, as special needs became obvious. 

Apart from the creation of such new interallied mecha- 
nism, the Paris Conference led to general agreements in the 
vital questions of blockade, naval cooperation, man-power, 
and tonnage. The Chairman of the War Trade Board, Mr. 
Vance McCormick, had carried on a long series of conver- 
sations with Lord Robert Cecil, British Minister of Block- 
ade, and the French and Italian representatives. 

'In general it may be said,' wrote Mr. McCormick, in his 
report, 'that the conferences in London and Paris cleared 
the ground of all technical misunderstandings. The blockade 
authorities of the four countries understand each other from 
the point of view of commodities, industry, trade and 
exchange. Any question that may arise in these directions 
will from now on be trivial and easily settled by cable. There 
remain only questions of policy, which change with the pro- 
gress of the war, and under these circumstances, future 
negotiations ought to be greatly simplified as compared 
to those of the past. The hearty cooperation afforded us in 
London by Lord Robert Cecil and in Paris by Minister 
Lebrun, and their respective staffs, make possible a much 
closer coordination of our work, and a better understanding 
with our Allies upon all blockade matters/ 

As to naval affairs, the Paris Conference resulted in the 
creation of the Interallied Naval Council, designed Ho 
insure the closest touch and complete cooperation between 
the Allied fleets.' Its membership included the Allied 
Ministers of Marine and their chiefs of naval staffs, and flag 
officers representing the United States and Japan. This 
promised much for the future, but the conversations of 
Admiral Benson led to decisions of more immediate impor- 



tance. In his secret memorandum for Colonel House he 
summarized them as follows: 

'Decision to send division of battleships to join British 
Grand Fleet immediately. Tentative agreement to send en- 
tire Atlantic Fleet to European waters in the spring pro- 
vided conditions warrant such action. A joint decision to 
undertake with the British the closing of the North Sea by 
establishing and maintaining a mine barrage. An assurance 
by the British Government that the Straits of Dover will 
be efficiently closed, and that steps will be taken immedi- 
ately with this object in view. Decision upon a definite plan 
of offensive operations in which our forces will participate 
in the near future. . . . Agreement entered into with British 
Admiralty which permits the officer commanding the U.S. 
Naval Forces Operating in European Waters to attend the 
daily morning conference in the Admiralty. An agreement 
to have three of our officers detailed for duty in the plan- 
ning section of the British Admiralty in order to secure 
closer cooperation and in order that we may have full infor- 
mation at all times as to just what plan of operations the 
British Admiralty may be considering. . . . M 

Admiral Benson did not conceal his admiration of the 
accomplishments of the British Navy. 'I was particularly 

1 Admiral Benson makes the following comment, June 16, 1928: 'The 
above were the result of numerous conferences between officials of the 
B.A. and myself. I was to find no suggestion had come from that side in 
these important points. It was absolutely necessary to close the Straits 
of Dover before planting the barrage across the North Sea. The British 
stated they could not get the anchors to hold on the slimy bottom of the 
Dover Straits. I suggested they cast large heavy blocks of concrete with 
long sharp spikes extending beneath them; these spikes would then stick 
down into the bottom and hold the blocks to which the lines for holding 
the mines could be made fast. Much to my surprise, as late as my visit 
in November, 1917, German submarines were still passing in and out 
through the Straits of Dover. This was stopped, and the barrage, of 
which we planted eighty-two per cent in the North Sea, practically 
bottled up the German submarine.' 


impressed,' he wrote, 'with the magnitude of the task that 
had been undertaken by the British Navy in order to 
accomplish their purposes and with the success which their 
efforts were meeting. I was also very much impressed with 
the energy and zeal displayed by all British naval officers 
with whom I came in contact/ 


Whatever hopes for the future were stimulated by the 
programme drafted by the Paris Conference, the reports of 
the American War Mission indicated only too plainly the 
serious character of the immediate situation. All the mem- 
bers of the Mission were impressed by the exhaustion of 
Europe and the need of extraordinary exertions on the part 
of the United States, if defeat were to be averted. Colonel 
House, while praising the work of the Mission, was not 
optimistic as regards the plans for military coordination 
and stated frankly that 'unless a change for the better 
comes, the Allies cannot win.' Admiral Benson and General 
Bliss agreed that a supreme crisis was to be expected in the 
approaching spring, the outcome of which would depend 
largely upon the winter efforts of the United States and the 
influence we might exert in the direction of improved co- 
ordination. The confidential reports of all three were ex- 
pressed in rather serious tones. 

Report of Colonel House 


... If this war is to be won, better team work between the 
Allies must be effected. As now conducted there is great loss 
of energy and resources. Duplication is going on in some 
directions in others men and money are being wasted. 

The Central Powers are not overmatched, because their 
resources are perfectly mobilized and under single control. 


The individual German soldier is perhaps not so good as the 
English, but the German military machine is superior to that 
of either England or France. The difficulties under which the 
English and Americans have to fight are a great handicap. 
Not only have they wide distances from which to gather 
their forces and maintain them, but these difficulties are 
enormously enhanced by having to create and maintain a 
huge army in a foreign land amongst a people with different 
habits, customs and prejudices. 

The diplomatic end of such an undertaking is nearly as 
great as the military end, and General Pershing is beginning 
to realize this. 

Unless a change for the better comes the Allies cannot win, 
and Germany may. For six months or more the ground has 
been steadily slipping away from the Allies 

The English and French are insistent that our troops 
should be placed amongst theirs as soon as they come over. 
The argument is that it would give them better and quicker 
training, and would also help them [the English and French] 
withstand the great German drive which they believe is 
imminent. The drive, I think, will be made, and every 
possible help should be given them to withstand it, for if it 
is successful the war on land will have finished. On the 
other hand, they are asking us to do what the Canadians and 
Australians have refused to do. If once we merge with them 
we will probably never emerge. The companies and bat- 
talions placed with them would soon be mere fragments. 
Then, too, if they are placed in such a position they will not 
get along well with either the English or French and will 
never get credit for the sacrifices they make. It can, I think, 
be taken for granted that this plan would be the most effec- 
tive immediate help we could give the French and English, 
but it would be at great cost to us. 

We found the morale of the people high in England. The 
more fortune goes against them the steadier and more 


determined they are to win. In France the morale was also 
good. There were no signs of weakening. In England the 
people are more sober than on my last visit. London is 
gloomy. There was a lack of bustle that I had never seen 
before and indications of depression. Every one seems now 
to realize what this war means, and the blitheness of former 
years has given way to grim determination. Food, gasoline 
and other useful commodities are being conserved. In 
France it is otherwise. Paris is normal in appearance. The 
streets are lively the people cheerful, and food, gasoline, 

etc., are plentiful 1 was told that if restrictions were 

placed upon the French people they would rebel. That the 
only way they could be kept going at the top notch was to 
let them have their way in this direction. . . . 

The Supreme War Council as at present constituted is 
almost a farce. It could be the efficient instrument to win 
the war. The United States can make it so, and I hope she 
will exercise her undisputed power to do it. 

In conclusion I wish to record my appreciation of the 
individual work of the Members of this Mission. Whatever 
success it has had as a force for good is due to them. In all 
my experience of men I have never known better and more 
intelligent team work. There has been no confusion of pur- 
pose no slacking in the pursuit of the objects to be 
obtained and there has been absolutely no personal differ- 
ences or friction to retard their work. They have been 
amenable to both advice and suggestion and have left the 
impression in England and France of men of great ability 
and of equally great modesty. They have had to do with 
their opposites having the rank of Cabinet Ministers but no 
one who conferred with them for a moment doubted they 
were conferring with their equals. 


U.S.S. Mount Vernon 
December 14, 1917 


Report of Admiral Benson 


... I believe that no time should be lost nor should any 
effort be spared to assist all the Allies at the earliest possible 
date and to the utmost extent by any means which will help 
towards the prosecution of the war. 

' In order for us to efficiently render assistance to the allied 
cause in keeping with our resources and expressed determi- 
nation, a logical administration of tonnage having in view the 
defeat of Germany is imperative. It matters not what flag 
any ship or ships may sail under provided they are engaged 
in carrying out well-defined plans for the accomplishment of 
the above purpose which meet with the approval of the sev- 
eral governments concerned. 


Chief of Naval Operations 
On Board U.S.S. Mount Vernon 
14 December, 1917 

Report of General Bliss 

... A military crisis is to be apprehended culminating not 
later than the end of next spring, in which, without great as- 
sistance from the United States, the advantage will probably 
lie with the Central Powers. 

This crisis is largely due to the collapse of Russia as a 
military factor and to the recent disaster in Italy. But it is 
also largely due to the lack of military coordination, lack 
of unity of control on the part of the allied forces in the 

This lack of unity of control results from military jealousy 
and suspicion as to ultimate national aims. 

Our allies urge us to profit by their experience in three and 
a half years of war; to adopt the organization, the types of 


artillery, tanks, etc., that the test of war has proved to be 
satisfactory. We should go further. In making the great 
military effort now demanded of us we should also demand 
as a prior condition that our allies also profit by the experi- 
ence of three and a half years of war in the matter of absolute 
unity of military control. National jealousies and suspicions 
and susceptibilities of national temperament must be put 
aside in favor of this unified control, even going, if necessary 
(as I believe it is), to the limit of unified command. Other- 
wise, our dead and theirs may have died in vain 

To meet a probable military crisis we must meet the 
unanimous demand of our allies to send to France the maxi- 
mum number of troops that we can send as early in the 
year 1918 as possible. There may be no campaign of 1919 
unless we do our best to make the campaign of 1918 the 

To properly equip these troops so that we may face the 
enemy with soldiers and not merely men, we should accept 
every proffer of assistance from our allies, continuing our 
own progress of construction for later needs, but accepting 
everything from them which most quickly meets the im- 
mediate purposes of the war and which will most quickly en- 
able us to play a decisive part in it. This should be the only 

To transport these troops before it is too late we should 
take every ton of shipping that can possibly be taken from 
trade. Especially should every ton be utilized that is now 
lying idle, engaged neither in trade nor in war. The Allies 
and the neutrals must tighten their belts and go without 
luxuries and many things which they think of as necessities 
must be cut to the limit. Every branch of construction 
which can be devoted to an extension of our shipbuilding 
programme, and which is not vitally necessary for other 
purposes, should be so devoted in order to meet the rapidly 
growing demands for ships during 1918. The one all-absorb- 


ing necessity now is soldiers with which to beat the enemy in 
the field, and ships to carry them. 

Chief of Staff 

On Board U.S.S. Mount Vernon 
14 December, 1917 


Such were the reports which Colonel House brought back 
from Paris. Their essence was contained in the mutual agree- 
ment that the United States must supply the men and the 
supplies lacking in Europe; the Allies would equip those men 
with their own surplus supplies and would find boats to help 
carry them. The War Mission landed in New York on Satur- 
day, December 15. 

Colonel House to the President 

U.S.S. Mount Vernon 
December 15, 1917 


We expect to land this afternoon and if convenient to you I 
will take the 11.08 Monday morning, reaching Washington 
at 4.40 P.M. 

I have had the Mission working all the way over on reports 
for their respective Departments and a summary for your 
information and that of the State Department. These are 
ready and go forward along with my own to Washington'by 
Gordon to-night. 

I hope you will find that the Mission has been successful 
and well worth while. 

Looking eagerly forward to being with you again, I am 

Your devoted 


To this the President replied with a telegram: Delighted 
that you are safely back. He added that he looked forward 


'with the utmost pleasure' to seeing House on the following 
day and hoped that he would stay at the White House. 1 

Mr. Wilson was apparently chiefly interested in the plans 
for unity of military control and the possible development of 
the Supreme War Council. As he later explained to House he 
could not agree to send over the large American army that 
was needed unless he had guarantees that it would be utilized 
in the most efficient manner possible, regardless of national 

'December 17, 1917: I came to Washington to-day/ wrote 
House in his diary. 'I drove to the White House first, in- 
tending to leave my bags and go on to Janet's [Mrs. Gordon 
Auchincloss], but I found the President in his study waiting 
for me. We had a conference which lasted from five until 
seven o'clock. . . . 

4 1 gave the President a report of my activities in London 
and Paris and he seemed deeply interested. I shall not go 
into detail, but I recommended that he send General Tasker 
H. Bliss over as soon as he could make ready to act as our 
Military Adviser in the Supreme War Council. I explained 
the formation and working of that Council and how ineffi- 
cient it had been made because of [the] determination to 
eliminate the British Chief of Staff and the General Com- 
manding in the Field. 

* In reply to his query as to how matters could be remedied, 
I thought it would be necessary to wait until we had a force 
on the firing line sufficient to give us the right to demand a 
voice in the conduct of the military end of the war/ 

The President then took up the advisability of sending an 
American political representative to sit in the Council with 
the Prime Ministers, and expressed his determination to send 
over Colonel House within a month or so. He added that he 

1 Wilson to House, December 16, 1917. 


could not send any one else. Quick decisions would be neces- 
sary and a representative must be there who would not have 
to refer every detail back to the President. 

This decision Wilson did not carry out until the following 
autumn, when he sent House over as his personal representa- 
tive in the Supreme War Council. 1 On the other hand, ar- 
rangements were made for despatching General Bliss im- 
mediately, as Military Adviser, so that he was able to attend 
the important meeting of the War Council at the end of 

The President was evidently much impressed by General 
Bliss's arguments for the need of unified military control, 
even if it meant unified command. A short time later M. 
Andre Tardieu, returning from France, discussed the ques- 
tion with Wilson. 

4 In January, 1918,' writes M. Tardieu, 'on my return from 
Paris, where, in order to continue my work in America, I had 
refused a portfolio in the Clemenceau Cabinet, I had the 
following conversation with President Wilson about the 
Supreme Command. The President, to whom I pointed out 
the difficulties attendant upon such a measure, replied : "You 
will have to come to it, just the same. What does Mr. 
Clemenceau think?" "He is thoroughly in favour of it," 
I said. "Whom does he suggest?" asked the President. I 
answered, "General Foch." By his influence on England, 
Mr. Wilson from that moment never ceased to pave the way 
for the decision reached in March, 1918.' 2 

There wns another aspect to the question of the efficiency 
of the new plans for interallied cooperation. Could the 
United States make good the promises which the American 
War Mission had made providing for American men and 

1 Sec below, Volume IV, Chapter III. 

2 Tardieu, France and America, 235. 


supplies? 'We and our allies each know/ said the Newark 
News, on January 3,' what we are to do to play our part in 
the coordinated plan. . . . Now it is up to us democratic 
peoples to show that we can be more efficient in voluntary co- 
ordination than the Central Powers. ... A plan is worth only 
what is made of it. It is a beginning and only a beginning/ 
If the United States was to play its part efficiently there 
would have to be an immediate speeding-up and smoothing- 
out of the work of the war boards. Both in Europe and in 
America there was much pessimism. Colonel House received 
from the French and British constant reminders of the need 
of man-power and tonnage. They began with an explicit 
note from M. Clemenceau, setting down in clear terms the 
understanding reached by the military leaders as to the 
number of troops to be sent and the need of severe restriction 
of exports in order to make possible their transport. Other 
messages emphasized the need of materials, or of shipbuild- 
ing, or of letting the American forces go into the line in small 
units, as part of the French or British forces. 

M. Clemenceau to Colonel House 

PARIS, December 6, 1917 


At the moment of closing the Allied Conference I beg to 
emphasize the dominant idea, always in our minds while 
drafting our programme, which compels the Allies Ho re- 
strain their imports in order to liberate the most tonnage pos- 
sible, in view of the transport of American troops.' The 
Government of the Republic feels that immediate coopera- 
tion between the Allies must be vigorously exercised at the 
moment of establishing a joint programme of imports, and 
that they must bear in mind the absolute necessity of reserv- 
ing the tonnage indispensable for the transport to the West- 
ern Front of the American contingents. 

The French Government made known to the members of 


the Conference of Maritime Transport that it estimated as 
follows the absolute minimum of American troops which 
ought to be transported to France: 

For the present: 

Two divisions a month or 60,000 men. 
Beginning with the month of April: 

Three divisions a month or 90,000 men. 

Without counting the elements of Annies and the various services 

which would be in addition. 
Which would make of troops to be received: 

From now to the first of April 240,000 combatants 

From first April to the end of 1918 810,000 

Total 1,050,000 

Mr. Colby l has been informed of the enclosed memoran- 
dum of General Bliss communicating the unanimous opinion 
arrived at by: 

General Bliss Chief of Staff of the American Army; 

General Pershing Commanding the American Expedi- 
tionary Corps; 

General Robertson Chief of Staff of the British Army; 

General Foch Chief of Staff of the French Army; 
according to which 24 divisions are to be brought to France 
before the end of June, 1918. 

While leaving to the experts the care of calculating the 
tonnage necessary to effectuate the transport of these con- 
tingents, the French Government adopts entirely the con- 
clusions of this memorandum. 

Please receive, Dear Colonel House, the expression of my 
sentiments of high consideration. 


Sir William Wiseman to Colonel House 


December 15, 1917 

The most urgent problem at present is man-power to 
secure our Western line against the formidable German at- 
1 As representative of the Shipping Board. 


tacks which may be expected through the winter. When 
these have failed, the military party will have lost the great 
temporary prestige which they now hold, and a strong Liberal 
reaction may be looked for. It is vitally important that the 
United States come to the assistance of the Allies with man- 
power immediately; that United States troops now in France 
should take their place by companies in the line with our 
men, as suggested to you in Paris, and also that reenforce- 
ments should be hurried from America at all costs. The next 
few months will be critical. 


Mr. Lloyd George to Colonel House 


LONDON, December 15, 1917 

Having regard to Russian situation and the fact that both 
guns and troops are being rapidly transferred from the 
Eastern to the Western Front, the Cabinet are anxious that 
an immediate decision should be come to in regard to the 
inclusion with the British units of regiments or companies of 
American troops, an idea which was discussed with you at 
Paris. In the near future and throughout the earlier months 
of next year the situation on the Western Front may become 
exceedingly serious, and it may become of vital importance 
that the American man power available in France should be 
immediately used, more especially as it would appear that 
the Germans are calculating on delivering a knockout blow 
to the Allies before a fully trained American army is fit to 
take its part in the fighting. 



LONDON, December 17, 1917 

We are receiving information from very trustworthy 
source to the effect that the United States shipbuilding pro- 


gramme for 1918 is not likely to exceed 2,000,000 tons. You 
will realize from our discussions here and in Paris, which were 
conducted on basis that United States would produce 6,000,- 
000 tons afterwards increased to 9,000,000, how serious a 
view the War Cabinet take of this news. The American ship- 
building programme is absolutely vital to the success in the 
War. May I urge that immediate steps be taken to ascertain 
the real situation in respect to shipbuilding as all depends 
upon estimate being realized. 


M. Tardieu to M. de Billy l 


PARIS, December, 1917 

Make the American Government understand that we are 
about to enter upon an extremely difficult period. A heavy 
German attack on our front with reinforcements brought 
from Russia is almost certain before the end of the winter. 
Our army was never in better condition, nor was its morale 
ever higher. Lay stress upon that; it is the absolute truth. 
But for France to hold without risk of surprises, we need 
men, cereals, gasoline, and steel. So the United States must 
make a great effort at once. I. Hasten the arrival of troops. 
2. Get wheat to the docks and apply to war transport 500,- 
000 tons of shipping taken from commandeered vessels. 3. 
Take from Standard Oil eight or ten tank steamers. Load 
steel on all troop transports. See Colonel House. Give him 
this cable. Tell him that I am convinced that the issue de- 
pends on the next six months. 



Anxious weeks followed the return of the American War 
Mission, for the strain of the emergency programme neces- 
1 Tardieu, France and America, 232. 


sitated by Allied demands almost broke down the United 
States war organization while it was still in embryonic form. 
A letter to Colonel House from Mr. Thomas Nelson Perkins, 
representative of the War Industries Board on the War 
Mission, indicates the intensity of the crisis. It is typical of 
many others. 

Mr. Perkins to Colonel House 

WASHINGTON, January 15, 1918 


... In spite of the fact that many people are saying and 
writing substantially what I have in mind, I am going to in- 
flict a letter upon you about the situation here as I see it, in 
the hope that you will see it in the same way, and will be able 
to do something about it which I obviously cannot. 

I do not suppose that I begin to know or appreciate as you 
do the seriousness of the situation to-day. I do know, how- 
ever, that the situation on the Western Front is so critical as 
to cause those who know best grave anxiety. I do know that 
the authorities in England and France regard it as vital that 
we should get a large number of men into France for service 
in the near future. I know that there are certain materials 
which we have got to furnish to the British and the French 
in order that they may be in a position to make the effort 
which they have got to make if they are going to hold the 
German army. 

I believe that our failure to do what is expected of us by 
the French army may have a disastrous effect upon the 
French morale, so that our failure will not only deprive our 
allies of the physical help which they need, but it may also 
demoralize, perhaps seriously, their own forces. 

In spite of the danger which my reason tells me may exist 
that the Germans may win the war within the next six or 
eight months, I do not believe that they will. My guess is 
that they will make a supreme effort and be unable to push 


it through, and that after they have exhausted themselves by 
their supreme effort the war will wear down to another period 
of deadlock, which will last until either we are able to amass 
in France a force sufficient to make an overwhelming effort, 
or there comes a civilian break on one side or the other which 
will bring about an end of the war. 

In addition to a German victory, I believe that there is an- 
other danger that is worthy of consideration, and that is the 
danger that the people of some of the countries exhausted by 
the state of war may overthrow the Governments, so that the 
world will be facing, to a greater or less extent, the conditions 
which now exist in Russia. I believe that the longer the war 
lasts the greater is this danger. I don't think that this dan- 
ger is going to materialize, but I don't think it is wholly im- 

On both accounts I think it is most essential that we should 
do everything in our power to bring the war to a successful 
conclusion at the earliest possible moment. 

I think that the contribution that the President has made, 
in seeing as no other national leader has done, the underlying 
principles of the struggle, and in calling attention to and 
emphasizing those principles, has been a great contribution. 
But this contribution is not enough unless it is backed by the 
physical contribution of men and materials. Our allies may 
be crushed; and even if they are not, the value of the contri- 
bution will be lessened because it may come to be regarded 
as the vision of a dreamer at the head of a nation which is 
incapable of effective practical work. 

When we come to consider the situation here from the 
point of view of practical work, the results so far are not 
satisfactory. . . . 

Obviously it is no time for indiscriminate criticism. 
Criticism in such a time as this is only excusable for con- 
structive purposes, to ascertain whether changes are neces- 
sary, and then try to see what needs to be remedied and how. 


That the situation has been bad there can be no question. 
That if the country should really know how bad the situation 
has been there might be a serious revulsion of feeling, seems 
to me probable. 

Now the question is, what is to be done? 

The two great things which seem to me lacking are: 

1st. An organization; and 

2nd. An understanding of the seriousness of the problem 
that is facing us. 

To-day there is no body or person in our Government 
whose function it is to decide what is the practical plan of the 
Government. . . . 

In addition to a body to determine what is to be done, I 
am also satisfied that there should be a body whose job it is 
to supply the needs as formulated by the first body. The 
most efficient supply department in the world, however, can 
be of no real use unless there is somebody to determine what 
is to be supplied. 

Yours very truly 


[Added in longhand:] Can you do anything about this? 
We are talking Time is passing Time is very much of 
the essence Practically every one I see has the same view. 
. . . Can't the good work be pushed? 

The process of centralizing responsibility, through which a 
real organization was finally developed, is not fully revealed 
by the papers of Colonel House. His connection with it con- 
sisted largely in his bringing to the President's attention the 
gist of such letters as the above. In the end, despite delays 
and mistakes, the chief needs of the Allies were met and 
America was able to contribute her share to the common 

* All my life,' writes Andrfe Tardieu, 'I shall remember the 


United States as it then was. A vast war machine, quickened 
by patriotism; its soul aflame; one hundred million men, 
women, and children with every nerve strained towards the 
ports of embarkation; chimneys smoking; trains rushing 
through the warm nights; women in the stations offering hot 
coffee to troops on their way to the front; national hymns 
rising to heaven ; meetings for Liberty Loans in every church, 
in every theatre, at every street corner; immense posters on 
the walls, "You are in it, you must win it." Immense and 
unhoped for achievement which despite the extremity of our 
peril and the righteousness of our cause had demanded weeks 
and months of preparation. In order to understand one an- 
other, to adjust both principles and their application, it had 
been necessary to adapt, to explain, to coordinate. The 
triumph of this adjustment spelled success. Haphazard 
methods would have meant failure.' l 

1 Tardieu, France and America, 238. 



The President wishes me to let the Prime Minister or you know that he 
feels he must presently make some specific utterance as a counter to the 
German peace suggestions. . . . We have so far been playing into the 
hands of the German military party . . . 

Colonel House to Mr. Balfour, January 5, 1918 

THE positive importance of the American War Mission in 
Europe, as the preceding chapter indicates, is to be found in 
the effect it had upon the war effort of the United States. It 
made plain the necessity of speeding American production 
and training American troops; it led to the creation of the 
various interallied councils which provided for proper co- 
ordination between the needs of the Allies and the capacity 
of the United States to supply them. 

Negatively the Mission was of equal historical importance, 
since by its very omissions it led to the Fourteen Points. 
Historians have often wondered why Wilson chose to make 
the speech of the Fourteen Points at the particular moment 
he selected. According to the evidence in the House Papers, 
it was because the American Mission failed to secure from 
the Interallied Conference the manifesto on war aims that 
might serve to hold Russia in the war and result in an effective 
diplomatic offensive against the Central Powers. Complete 
diplomatic unity between the Allies and the United States 
would have formed the most useful weapon in such a policy. 
Because of the failure to achieve this unity at Paris, Presi- 
dent Wilson was compelled to undertake the diplomatic 
offensive on his own responsibility. 

'What is still lacking, 9 wrote House at the close of the 
Interallied Conference, 'and what this Conference has not 


brought about, is intelligent diplomatic direction. It is dis- 
appointing to come to a gathering of this sort and not find an 
appreciation of the needs of the hour. We should have formu- 
lated a policy here as broad, as far-reaching, and as effective 
as the coordination of our military, naval, and economic re- 
sources has been. It should have been a world-appealing 
policy and one which would have shaken Germany behind 
the lines.' 

Immediately after his return from Paris, Colonel House 
discussed this topic with the President. On December 18, in 
the study of Mr. Wilson in the White House, he recounted 
his effort to persuade the Allies Ho join in formulating a 
broad declaration of war aims that would unite the world 
against Germany, and would not only help to a solution 
of the Russian problem but would knit together the best 
and most unselfish opinions of the world. I could not per- 
suade them to do this and now it will be done by the Presi- 

Mr. Wilson lost no time in deciding that, in default of an 
interallied manifesto, a comprehensive address by himself 
might prove to be the moral turning-point of the war just as 
the coordination of war boards and policies was likely to be 
the military turning-point. 'We did not discuss this matter 
more than ten or fifteen minutes,' wrote House in his diary on 
December 18. The Bolsheviks were already negotiating for a 
separate peace, and it was impossible not to return some sort 
of reply to their demand for a logical statement of why the war 
should continue. Germany must not be allowed to pose as 
the victim of Allied imperialist aspirations. It was important 
also to pledge, if possible, the Allied Governments to the 
principles of a settlement which would justify the sacrifices 
of the war and maintain the enthusiasm of the liberal and 
labor circles in Great Britain and France. On December 13 
the Manchester Guardian published the texts of the secret 


treaties released by the Bolsheviks, thus disclosing the 
character of Allied ambitions in 1915. Some corrective was 

President Wilson was the man best qualified by position 
and ability to state the moral issues involved in the war in 
such a way as to meet effectively the sentiment of protest 
that was rising in liberal and labor circles and was actively 
expressed in Russia. He represented lovers of peace all over 
the world. He was the chief of the nation which controlled 
the balance of economic forces. His prestige had been greatly 
enhanced by the American War Mission to Europe and the 
American demand for the organization of military and in- 
dustrial efforts. The following letter from the President of 
the University of Virginia illustrates the confidence he in- 
spired in thoughtful Americans. 

President E. A. Alderman to Colonel House 

December 18, 1917 


I have just been reading the account of the results of your 
latest mission to the allied countries. I cannot refrain, as a 
citizen of the Republic, from sending you my word of deep ad- 
miration and appreciation of the thorough-going, statesman- 
like fashion in which you have carried forward this great busi- 
ness. The moral ascendency of our country has stood forth 
boldly through all the uproar of the times, and it now seems 
clear, through the great purposes of the President and your 
own well-directed service, that a certain leadership in practical 
achievement is likely to come to us that may be the deciding 
factor in forcing the decision in the interests of freedom and 
self-government. The great task before us is to preserve our 
national will to win the war and to protect our Allies against 
social collapse and the dangers incident to a lessening ca- 
pacity for resistance and resolution. Then we shall win, and 


after that we may conceive of peace in terms of enduring 
justice and wisdom. 

I thought the President's letter to the Pope the high-water 
mark of his papers in its breadth and dignity and beauty; 
but I think his latest message to Congress, both in what it 
said and left unsaid, in what it intimated and suggested, a 
very close second to that remarkable document. 

I recall the peaceful voyage of 1914 that we made together 
in the Imperator, while the German plans were being laid, 
and I have watched with ever-increasing pride your great 
work for the nation in this time of trial and sacrifice. 
Faithfully yours 


By appearing before all the belligerents as spokesman for 
the liberals and peace-loving folk, Wilson brought to the 
Allies factors of political strength which in the end helped 
towards victory in a degree not always appreciated by those 
who think that wars are won by cannon and by blockades 
alone. The approaching campaign of 1918 would test the 
morale of Allied peoples as nothing before. Not merely men 
and ships, but an absolute conviction of the justice of their 
cause would be essential to a firm defense. 

Once decided upon the necessity of a formal restatement of 
war aims, the President asked House to collect and arrange 
the materials for his address, in collaboration with the group 
of experts who since September had been gathering data for 
use at the Peace Conference. At the time of the return of the 
House Mission from Europe, the Inquiry was still little more 
than a central committee aided by a few well-known authori- 
ties upon geographic, economic, and legal questions. But 
this committee was always master of the facts which had 
been collected, and preserved an invariable objectivity in its 
analysis of the surging and conflicting issues that arose from 
those facts. Hence when House returned from Washington 


and intimated that Wilson was planning to deliver after 
Christmas what might prove the most important speech of 
his career, the Inquiry was able to produce within the space 
of a few days a complete territorial programme. General 
propositions were reduced to formulae, the critical territorial 
issues were isolated, and recommendations drafted in accord 
with the principles which Wilson was known to approve. In 
all-day and all-night sessions statistics were gathered and 
simplified, and illustrative maps constructed, as justification 
for the recommendations that were made. 

Some of these data House took with him on December 23, 
when he went to Washington to spend Christmas. The basic 
report of the Inquiry, which Wilson had before him when he 
constructed his speech, House brought down on a second 
visit, on January 4. This report was divided into two main 
sections. The first outlined the general diplomatic situation 
and the points that ought to be emphasized in the proposed 
diplomatic offensive against Germany : Bulgaria and Austria- 
Hungary, it was suggested, ought to be handled sympa- 
thetically; Germany should be threatened with economic 
penalties after the war unless she were willing and able to fur- 
nish guarantees that she had renounced imperialist policies: 
'This is our strongest weapon and the Germans realize its 
menace. Held over them it can win priceless concessions.' 
The Western Allies should be encouraged: '(1) by an ener- 
getic movement for economic unity of control; (2) by ut- 
terances from the United States which will show the way to 
the Liberals in Great Britain and in France, and therefore 
restore their national unity of purpose. These Liberals will 
readily accept the leadership of the President if he under- 
takes a liberal diplomatic offensive, because they will find in 
\\uaiV, offensive an invaluable support for their internal do- 
mestic troubles; finally (3) such a powerful liberal offensive 
on the part of the United States will immensely stimulate 
American pride and interest in the war, and will assure the 


administration the support of the great mass of the Ameri- 
can people who desire an idealistic solution. Such a liberal 
offensive will do more than any other thing to create in this 
country the sort of public opinion that the President needs 
in order to carry through the programme he has outlined.' 

The second portion of the Inquiry Report consisted of a 
statement of terms on eight territorial issues: Belgium, 
Northern France, Alsace-Lorraine, Italian frontiers, the 
Balkans, Poland, Austria-Hungary, Turkey. It concluded 
with a paragraph noting that out of the existing anti-German 
alliance was developing a League of Nations: 'Whether this 
League is to be armed and exclusive, or whether there is to be 
a reduction of armaments and a cordial inclusion of Germany, 
will depend upon whether the German Government is in fact 
representative of the German democracy/ 

The sources of information necessary to an exact under- 
standing of political currents in Europe were hard to come by 
in time of war; hence there was much in the report that re- 
vealed an ignorance of European conditions. But in the main 
lines the Inquiry recommendations were sound. At all 
events they represented the policy Wilson had already deter- 
mined upon and embodied the principles of liberals in this 
country and abroad. These principles, as expressed in the 
Fourteen Points, were not original with either the Inquiry or 
President Wilson. The Inquiry simply performed the spade- 
work of collecting opinions and facts in a convenient form for 
the consideration of the President, indicating the trend of 
opinion which seemed to be most clearly supported by the 
facts. President Wilson evaluated them in the light of what 
he believed to be practical idealism and clothed them in con- 
vincing phrase. The speech was great partly because of 
Wilson's genius for exposition, partly because it caught the 
shift of inarticulate opinion and expressed it with the 
authority of the President's high station. 'The President's 
words/ said the New York Tribune after the speech, 'are the 
words of a hundred million.' 



The recommendations of the Inquiry Mr. Wilson studied 
with care, especially those relating to the settlement of ter- 
ritorial issues, discussed them with Colonel House, and wrote 
shorthand annotations on the margin of the report, some of 
which with slight alterations he later embodied in his speech. 
He also went over a mass of memoranda supplied by Euro- 
pean representatives, which House brought down to Wash- 
ington on the evening of January 4. 

* I did not reach the White House until nine o'clock/ wrote 
House. 'They had saved dinner for me, but I touched it 
lightly and went into immediate conference with the Presi- 
dent concerning the proposed message to Congress on our 
war aims. . . . 

'We were in conference until half-past eleven, discussing 
the general terms to be used, and looking over data and maps 
which I had brought with me, some of which the Peace In- 
quiry Bureau had prepared.' 

The President decided that he would frame his speech with 
three special purposes in mind. First, as an answer to the 
demand of the Bolsheviks for an explanation of the objects 
of the war, such an answer as might persuade Russia to stand 
by the Allies in their defense of democratic and liberal princi- 
ples according to which, as Wilson insisted, the peace settle- 
ment must be framed, and which would be trampled under 
foot by a victorious Germany. Second, as an appeal to the 
German Socialists, who had begun to indicate their suspicion 
that their Government was not really waging a war of de- 
fense, but rather one of conquest totally inconsonant with 
the Reichstag resolution of July. Third, as a notice to the 
Entente that there must be a revision in a liberal sense of the 
war aims which had been crystallized in the secret treaties. 
The President was especially disturbed by the Treaty of 


London and the arrangements made for the partition of the 
Turkish Empire. 

Mr. Wilson was aware of the extent to which Great Britain 
and France were committed to Italy by the Treaty of Lon- 
don. 1 It was important to make plain that the United States 
was pledged to principles that conflicted directly with that 
treaty in so far as it assigned foreign nationalities to Italian 
sovereignty. On this question there was no discussion be- 
tween Colonel House and the President, and the latter wrote 
on the margin of the Inquiry Report the sentence which be- 
came Point IX. * Readjustment of the frontiers of Italy 
along clearly recognized lines of nationality/ 2 This was in 
effect a denial of the claim of Italy to control the Adriatic 
and the German-speaking Tyrol as expressed in the Treaty 
of London. 

The opposition of the President to the division of the 
Turkish Empire as outlined in the treaties of 1915, the Sykes- 
Picot Treaty, and the Treaty of Saint-Jean de Maurienne, 
was equally definite. A note in House's diary as early as the 
preceding August indicates that the terms of these treaties 
were common property, even before they were published by 
the Bolsheviks. 'They know in Turkey/ wrote House, 'of 
the secret treaties which the Allies have made among them- 
selves, in which they have cheerfully partitioned Turkey.' 
Another entry, of October 13, refers to a conference with 
President Wilson: 'He thought he should say that Turkey 
should become effaced and that the disposition of it should be 
left to the peace conference. ... I added that it should be 
stated that Turkey must not be partitioned among the bel- 
ligerents, but must become autonomous in its several parts 
according to racial lines. He accepted this.' Further, on 
December 1, while House was at Paris, the President cabled 
him a warning to protest against the arrangements to parti- 

1 See above, Chapter II. 

8 In the speech, the word 'recognized' was altered to 'recognizable.' 


tion the Turkish Empire. 1 He now decided, as in the case of 
Italy, not to make any reference to the treaties, but simply to 
lay down a general principle which might be used later to op- 
pose imperialistic aspirations. Evidently he had changed Ids 
mind about the need of effacing Turkey, for he wrote on the 
margin of the Inquiry Report: 'The Turkish portions of the 
present Turkish Empire must be assured a secure sovereignty 
and the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule 
must be assured full opportunity of autonomous develop- 
ment.' 2 

After marking four other territorial points contained in the 
Inquiry Report, the President decided that he would post- 
pone until the next day the task of drafting definitely his 
general recommendations and settling the order in which 
they should be presented. On the following morning, Satur- 
day, January 5, as soon as he had completed his routine cor- 
respondence, he called House into his study and began the 
final outline of his speech and the arrangement of his definite 
points. Later he expressed regret that he was not able to in- 
clude all that seemed necessary in thirteen points, his favorite 

The record of the historically momentous conferences be- 
tween Wilson and House, in which the Fourteen Points were 
drafted, is set down in House's diary. It is unfortunate that, 
if available information is correct, the President himself did 
not make notes of the conversation. Mr. Wilson kept no 
regular diary and doubtless did not regard this conference as 
more significant than many others he had with House. The 
Colonel's record was dictated carefully, and the accuracy of 
his diary notes in general is attested at every point where 
they can be checked; there is every reason to accept his ac- 

1 Wilson to House, December 1. See above, Chapter IX. 

* In the speech the President added a clause to guarantee the freedom 
of the Dardanelles. He also reemphasized the autonomy desirable for 
the nationalities by substituting the words 'absolutely unmolested' for 
'full.' He further changed 'must* to 'should/ See below, pp. 329, 332. 


count as exact. It is important to remember, however, that 
House is writing as a diarist with no thought of later publica- 
tion; the reader should not be misled by the diary form of the 
narrative into the supposition that House was leading the 
conversation. 1 

* Saturday was a remarkable day,' wrote Colonel House. 
*I went over to the State Department just after breakfast to 
see Polk and the others, and returned to the White House at 
a quarter past ten in order to get to work with the President. 
He was waiting for me. We actually got down to work at 
half-past ten and finished remaking the map of the world, as 
we would have it, at half-past twelve o'clock. 2 

'We took it systematically, first outlining general terms, 
such as open diplomacy, freedom of the seas, removing of 
economic barriers, establishment of equality of trade condi- 
tions, guarantees for the reduction of national armaments, 
adjustment of colonial claims, general association of nations 
for the conservation of peace. Then we began on Belgium, 

1 Dr. Isaiah Bowman as executive officer of the Inquiry had first-hand 
knowledge of the events leading up to the speech of the Fourteen Points, 
and has been good enough to read and criticize this chapter. As a com- 
mentary upon the House- Wilson conferences, the following paragraph 
from a letter of Dr. Bowman is interesting: 

* I still have the feeling that the report of the House-Wilson conferences 
is curiously one-sided. We have H.'s diary but not W.'s. We have H.'s 
opinion of how much he helped W., but not W.'s opinion. No one can 
doubt that H. (during the period of the World War) was the wisest 
counselor that ever a President had. This because of the temper of H. no 
less than the temper of W. H.'s mind is like a sleeve valve: no friction! 
His thoughts come clearly to one, through simple words directly spoken. 
This is not craft but art and genius. Yet W. too had an altogether ex- 
traordinary character: he was a genius, a very great man. I wish you 
could bring this out a little more by a phrase or a sentence here and 
there, not just by a peroration. It would make H. a still greater figure to 
have it clearly shown how great was the man he served, and in my 
opinion it would give a higher judicial quality to the account/ 

* Naturally the time consumed in 'remaking the map of the world/ 
represents merely the time necessary to phrase conclusions which the 
President had reached after many months of thought. 


France, and the other territorial adjustments. When we had 
finished, the President asked me to number these in the order 
I thought they should come. I did this by placing the general 
terms first and territorial adjustments last. He looked over 
my arrangement and said it coincided with his own views, 
with the exception of the peace association which he thought 
should come last, because it would round out the message 
properly and permit him to say some things at the end which 
were necessary. 

'In discussing these questions I urged, and made a strong 
argument for, open diplomacy. I said there was nothing he 
could do that would better please the American people and 
the democracies of the world, and that it was right and must 
be the diplomacy of the future. I asked him to lay deep 
stress upon it and to place it first. 1 

'I then suggested the removal, as far as possible, of trade 
barriers. 2 He argued that this would meet with opposition, 

1 This appears as Point I in the speech: 'Open covenants of peace, 
openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international 
understandings of any kind.' 

* On October 27, 1917, House had written to the President: ' I feel very 
strongly that something should be done at the Peace Conference to end, 
as far as practicable, trade restrictions. They have been and must con- 
tinue to be a menace to peace. With tariff barriers broken, with sub- 
sidies by common consent eliminated, and with real freedom of the seas 
both in peace and in time of war, the world could look with confidence 
to the future. 

'There should be no monopoly by any nation of raw materials, or the 
essentials for food and clothing. 

'You announced in your Mobile speech the doctrine that no territory 
should ever again be acquired by aggression, and this doctrine is now 
generally recognized throughout the world. If you can now use your 
commanding position to bring to the fore this other doctrine which is so 
fundamental to peace, you will have done more for mankind than any 
other ruler that has lived. 

' If you write such a message as we talked of, I hope you will think it 
well to say that the worst thing that could happen to Germany would be 
a peace made by a government that was not representative. That such 
a peace would inevitably lead to economic warfare afterwards a war- 
fare in which by force of circumstances this Government would be com- 
pelled to take part.' 

Mr. Wilson, in his December Message to Congress, had already closely 


particularly in the Senate. Nevertheless I thought that since 
the document was to be a readjustment of world conditions, 
it would not be a complete structure unless this was in it. The 
two great causes of war were territorial and commercial 
greed, and it was just as necessary to get rid of the one as it 
was the other. He made no argument against this, and pro- 
ceeded to frame a paragraph to cover it. 1 

'I then suggested a discussion of the freedom of the seas. 
He asked my definition of this term. I answered that I went 
further than any one I knew, for I believed that in time of 
both war and peace a merchantman should traverse the seas 
unmolested. He agreed to this, and the paragraph as framed 
read something like this: "Absolute freedom of navigation 
upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in 

* After the message had been entirely written and he had 
read it over three or four times, wondering how England 
would receive this particular paragraph, I suggested that he 
add to it that "the seas might be closed by international ac- 
tion in order to enforce international covenants." The Presi- 
dent seized this suggestion with avidity and added it. I gave 
as my reason for this that I had discussed the matter in Eng- 
land and I believed with this addition it might be acceptable 
to them. 2 

followed the suggestion contained in the last paragraph of House's letter. 
See above, p. 159. 

l This appears as Point III in the speech: 'The removal, so far as 
possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality 
of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and 
associating themselves for its maintenance.' 

2 This paragraph, which finally became Point II in the speech, read: 
'Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, 
alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or 
in part by international action for the. enforcement of international 

For Colonel House's definition of the 'freedom of the seas/ see Volume 
I, p. 408. 

House was wrong in his belief that British opinion would be favorably 


' One of the points we discussed was the reduction of arma- 
ments. He played with this some time before he could get it 
into its present form, which satisfied us both. 1 I need not go 
into the difficulties of that question because they are appar- 
ent to any one who has tried to work out something satis- 

'We had less trouble with the colonial question. At first 
it was thought he might have to evade this entirely, but the 
President began to try his hand on it and presently the par- 
agraph which was adopted was acceptable to us both, and 
we hoped would be to Great Britain. 2 

'We took up Belgium, and that paragraph was written 
without difficulty. 3 Then a long discussion followed on 
France and whether Alsace and Lorraine should be touched 
upon. I was in favor of not mentioning it specifically, if it 
were possible not to do so, therefore at first he put in, "All 
French territory should be freed and the invaded portions re- 
stored." We left it there and went on to other territorial read- 
justments, but came back to it time and again. The Presi- 

affected by the addition of the last phrase. The feeling against the words 
'freedom of the seas,' which had been so consistently chanted by the 
Germans, was strong, and this was the one point which provoked general 
objection in Great Britain. 

1 The paragraph appeared as Point IV in the speech: 'Adequate guar- 
antees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the 
lowest points consistent with domestic safety.' 

* This appeared as Point V in the speech: 'A free, open-minded, and 
absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a 
strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions 
of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have 
equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is 
to be determined.' 

1 As Point VII, it read: 'Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be 
evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty 
which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single 
act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations 
in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the gov- 
ernment of their relations with one another. Without this healing act 
the whole structure and validity of international law is forever im- 


dent convinced me that it was necessary to say something 
about it, since the message was so specific as to other nations, 
and I could see he was right. I suggested then that it should 
read: "If Alsace and Lorraine were restored to France, 
Germany should be given an equal economic opportunity," 
and it was written this way and remained so until Monday 

c On Monday, after we had eaten lunch, the President said, 
as we were walking toward his study, "The only thing about 
the message that worries me is in regard to Alsace and Lor- 
raine. I am wondering how that will be taken." I replied 
that it was practically the only point that disturbed me and I 
suggested that we try our hands on it again. As it was, 
I was afraid it would suit neither France nor Germany. I 
thought he might leave out the economic part and put in the 
assertion that it had been for fifty years a cause of unrest in 
Europe, and that a just settlement of the question was as 
much in the interest of Germany as it was to the balance of 
the world. 

'He then wrote the paragraph as it now stands with the 
exception that he had "must be righted" instead of "should 
be righted," as I thought best. 1 

'We then went into a discussion of where "should" and 
where "must" should be used, and he agreed that where 
there was no difference as to the justice of a question the 
word "must" ought to be used, and where there was a con- 
troversy the word "should" was correct. He went through 
the entire message and corrected it in this way. He wondered 
whether that point would be caught. I thought it was certain 
it would be. 

1 The final text of this paragraph, which became Point VIII in the 
speech, read: 'All French territory should be freed and the invaded 
portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in 
the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the 
world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may 
once more be made secure in the interest of all.' 


'My argument was this: The American people might not 
consent to fight for the readjustment of European territory, 
therefore in suggesting these readjustments, with the excep- 
tion of Belgium, the word "should" ought to be used." 

President Wilson studied the paragraph upon Russia with 
particular care, for in a sense the Russian situation formed 
the chief raison (T&re of the speech. The Bolsheviks had 
made their armistice with Germany, but it was not yet plain 
that they could agree on terms of peace. Lenin and Trotsky 
were not entirely at one, the former insisting that peace must 
be signed on any terms, in order to hasten the world revolu- 
tion; the latter evolving a formula of 'no peace, no war,' 
which he believed would do more than anything to make 
plain the aggressive imperialism of the Germans, while it 
would save the Russian proletariat from continuing a war for 
the benefit of Entente imperialism. The power of the Bolshe- 
viks, moreover, was still uncertain. America and the Allies 
must be careful not to strengthen it by an appeal to faction. 
Above all it was necessary to insist upon American friendli- 
ness to Russia and upon the unselfishness of American war 
aims. House showed to Wilson a telegram he had received 
from the Russian Ambassador, who since the Bolshevik 
Revolution no longer represented the party in power at 
Moscow, but whose understanding of the situation was 
tolerant and broad. It was this telegram, which he had re- 
ceived the previous month, that had influenced House to 

make his original suggestion of a restatement of Allied war 

Ambassador Bakhmetieff to Colonel House 


NEW YORK, November 30, 1917 

Although Lenin's Government, which seized control by 
force, cannot be regarded as representing the will of the 


Russian nation, the appeal which it addressed to the Allies in 
proposing an armistice cannot remain unanswered; for any 
evasion on the part of the Allies in the matter of peace will 
simply strengthen the Bolsheviks and help them to create an 
atmosphere in Russia hostile to the Allies. Any formal pro- 
test against Lenin's policy or any threats will have the same 
effect; they will simply aggravate the situation and aid the 

Maximalists to go to extremes 


With this in mind House had consulted with Bakhmetief! 
before coming to Washington and what Wilson wrote, so far 
as its content went, approximated the draft of the Ambassa- 
dor. The Colonel's account of the discussion with Wilson 

'I read him a sentence that I had prepared regarding 
Russia, which I had submitted to the Russian Ambassador, 
who thoroughly approved. I said that it did not make any 
difference how much the President resented Russia's action, 
the part of wisdom was to segregate her, as far as we were 
able, from Germany, and that it could only be done by the 
broadest and friendliest expressions of sympathy and a 
promise of more substantial help. There was no argument 
about this because our minds ran parallel, and what he wrote 
about Russia is, I think, in some respects the most eloquent 
part of his message. 1 

1 This appeared as Point VI in the speech: 'The evacuation of all 
Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia 
as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the 
world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed oppor- 
tunity for the independent determination of her own political develop- 
ment and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the 
society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more 
than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may 
herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in 
the months to come will be the dcid test of their good will, of their com- 
prehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and 
of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.' 


'He spent some time on Poland. I gave him the memo- 
randa which the Polish National Council in Paris had given 
me, containing a paragraph which they wished the Interal- 
lied Conference to adopt, but which was refused. We read 
this over carefully and both concluded that it could not be 
used in full, but the paragraph as framed came as near to it 
as he felt was wise and expedient. 1 

c After the Turkish paragraph had been written, the Presi- 
dent thought it might be made more specific, and that 
Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and other parts be mentioned 
by name. I disagreed with this, believing that what was said 
was sufficient to indicate this, and it finally stood as originally 
framed.' 2 


No essential changes were made by President Wilson in his 
Fourteen Points after the Saturday morning session with 
House, except in the case of Alsace-Lorraine. Apparently the 
sole Point upon which he desired outside criticism was that 
relating to the Balkan settlement, concerning which the 
opinion of the head of the Serbian Mission in Washington 
was sought. In drafting this Point the President avoided 
specific recommendations, perhaps because he recognized the 
difficulty of understanding the complex issues in that region 
and felt compelled to seek refuge in rather vague generalities. 
Point XI, as he drafted it, ran as follows: 

1 Point XIII in the speech: 'An independent Polish state should be 
erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably 
Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to 
the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial 
integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.' 

2 Point XII in the speech: 'The Turkish portions of the present Otto- 
man Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other 
nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an un- 
doubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of 
autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently 
opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under 
international guarantees/ 


'Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro to be evacuated; oc- 
cupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure 
access to the sea; and the relationships of the several Balkan 
states to one another determined by friendly counsel along 
historically established lines of allegiance and nationality. 
International guarantees to be entered into of the political 
and economic independence and territorial integrity of all the 
Balkan states.' l 

This paragraph was generally regarded by students of the 
Balkan problem as the weakest spot in the entire speech of 
the Fourteen Points. The resounding phrase *by friendly 
counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and 
nationality* really meant nothing, for in the Balkans such 
lines are nonexistent. The Inquiry Report, whether or not 
its specific recommendations would have proved wise, was at 
least nearer realities. 2 Perhaps because Wilson realized the 

1 The President made slight changes in phraseology in this paragraph 
before delivering his speech. The final form was: 'Rumania, Serbia, and 
Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia 
accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several 
Balkan States to one another determined by friendly counsel along his- 
torically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international 
guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial 
integrity of the several Balkan States should be entered into. 9 

2 The Inquiry Report read as follows: 

* No just or lasting settlement of the tangled problems confronting the 
deeply wronged peoples of the Balkans can be based upon the arbitrary 
treaty of Bucharest. That treaty was a product of the evil diplomacy 
which the peoples of the world are now determined to end. That treaty 
wronged every nation in the Balkans, even those which it appeared to 
favour, by imposing upon them all the permanent menace of war. It 
unquestionably tore men and women of Bulgarian loyalty from their 
natural allegiance. It denied to Serbia that access to the sea which she 
must have in order to complete her independence. Any just settlement 
must of course begin with the evacuation of Rumania, Serbia, and 
Montenegro by the armies of the Central Powers, and the restoration of 
Serbia and Montenegro. The ultimate relationship of the different 
Balkan nations must be based upon a fair balance of nationalistic and 
economic considerations, applied in a generous and inventive spirit after 
impartial and scientific inquiry. The meddling and intriguing of Great 


weakness of this paragraph he sought outside advice; it came 
to him in direct and critical form. 

"The paragraph about Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro/ 
wrote House, 'is interesting inasmuch as the President asked 
me to submit it to Vesnitch, head of the Serbian Mission to 
this country and Serbian Minister at Paris. He wished to get 
Vesnitch's reaction on it. ... 

' I sent for Vesnitch to meet me at Gordon's home, as I did 
not think it advisable to have him come to the White House. 
... He totally disagreed with what had been written and said 
it would not satisfy Serbia. He also said that peace should 
not be made at this time and that the discussion of peace 
should be frowned upon. I told him that since Russia, 
Germany, Austria, and Great Britain were actually discuss- 
ing peace it was not worth while to argue as to whether a 
discussion was advisable or not; therefore I asked him to set 
forth concretely what he would suggest in preference to what 
I submitted to him. He wrote with some difficulty, under- 
neath the paragraph which the President . . . had framed, the 

Powers must be stopped, and the efforts to attain national unity by 
massacre must be abandoned. 

' It would obviously be unwise to attempt at this time to draw frontiers 
for the Balkan states. Certain broad considerations, however, may tenta- 
tively be kept in mind. They are in brief these: (1) that the area annexed 
by Rumania in the Dobrudja is almost surely Bulgarian in character and 
should be returned; (2) that the boundary between Bulgaria and Turkey 
should be restored to the Enos-Midia line, as agreed upon at the confer- 
ence of London; (3) that the south boundary of Bulgaria should be the 
jEgean Sea coast from Enos to the gulf of Orfano, and should leave the 
mouth of the Struma River in Bulgarian territory; (4) that the best 
access to the sea for Serbia is through Saloniki; (5) that the final disposi- 
tion of Macedonia cannot be determined without further inquiry; 
(6) that an independent Albania is almost and certainly an undesirable 
political entity. 

4 We are strongly of the opinion that in the last analysis economic con- 
siderations will outweigh nationalistic affiliations in the Balkans, and 
that a settlement which insures economic prosperity is most likely to be 
a lasting one/ 

lt a , , ufi- 

tad Btioulity. 
to b. e.t.r.d into of the 

and t.rritoritl integrity of ll the Balkan 

JAT!** **t^ vi 

, 71* 


f 04 




'"There will and there cannot be in Europe any lasting 
peace with the conservation of actual Austria-Hungary. The 
nations kept in it, as well Serbians, Croats and Slovenes, as 
Tehees and Slovaks, as Rumanians and Italians, will con- 
tinue to combat the German-Magyar dominations. As to 
Bulgaria, Serbia stands firm on the Treaty of Bucharest. The 
Allied Powers have guaranteed to her these frontiers. It will 
be morally and materially impossible to get so rapidly an 
understanding of Balkan nations, which is of course desirable, 
and which may come. Bulgarian treachery can and shall not 
be rewarded. I sincerely believe that serious negotiations for 
the peace at this moment of the war would mean the com- 
plete failure of the policy of allies and a grave collapse of 
the civilization of mankind." 

'Vesnitch gave me a history of the Balkans, particularly 
that of Serbia, and I had to check him, saying I had an en- 
gagement with the President. 

'The President was rather depressed at this first and only 
attempt to obtain outside opinion regarding the message. . . . 
I advised him not to change the paragraph in the slightest, 
and to go ahead as if no objection had been made, and this 
he did.' 

It is rather surprising that the insistence of M. Vesnitch 
that a permanent settlement could not be secured so long as 
Austria-Hungary continued to exist did not lead to longer 
discussion between the President and Colonel House. The 
Serbian envoy was by no means alone in his opinion. Many 
authorities in France and Great Britain regarded the problem 
of the Austrian nationalities as the/ons et origo mail. These 
authorities believed that it was necessary to face it squarely, 
just as they emphasized the moral and material aid which the 
subject nationalities, if properly encouraged, might bring to 
the Entente through revolution. 

President Wilson had two alternative policies before him 


He might proclaim war to the death upon the Hapsburg 
Monarchy and promise complete liberation to the Czecho- 
slovaks, Poles, South Slavs, and Rumanians. He would thus 
bear assistance to a revolution that might end in the Balkani- 
zation of the Danube regions, but which would in the mean 
time go far to undermine the strength of the Central Powers. 
Or he might proclaim the right to 'autonomy* of the subject 
nationalities, which, however, should remain in some sort of 
federal union under the Hapsburg Crown. The peril of split- 
ting up territories economically interdependent would thus 
be avoided at the same time that the self-government of the 
nationalities was assured. 

The second alternative was chosen by the President. In 
common with the leading statesmen of western Europe, he 
believed that the political union of Austro-Hungarian peo-^ 
pies was a necessity, and he seems to have felt that once* , 
freed from German domination, the Hapsburg Monarchy I j 
would prove a beneficial force. Colonel House was of this 
opinion. 1 The Inquiry Report advised Wilson to pursue 
the rather tortuous course of threatening the existing Haps- 
burg Government with nationalist uprisings and at the 
same time showing it a means of safety through a refusal 
to accept German control in foreign policy. 2 'Austria- 
Hungary is in the position where she must be good in order 
to survive/ 

President Wilson in his speech of the Fourteen Points did 
not threaten the integrity of the Hapsburg Empire. Point X 
simply stated : 'The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place 
among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, 
should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous 

1 See above, Chapter VI, House to Wilson, August 15, 1917: 'On a 
basis of the status quo ante, the Entente could aid Austria in emancipating 
herself from Prussia.' 

2 'Our policy must therefore consist first in a stirring up of nationalist 
discontent and then in refusing to accept the extreme logic of this dis- 
content which would be the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary/ 


development.' This was, indeed, as far as the leaders of the 
Entente wished to go. Mr. Lloyd George, at the same time, 
renounced any threats against the existence of the Hapsburg 
Empire. 'Though ... the break-up of Austria-Hungary/ he 
said, 'is no part of our war aims, we feel that, unless genuine 
self-government on true democratic principles is granted to 
those Austro-Hungarian nationalities who have long desired 
it, it is impossible to hope for the removal of those causes of 
unrest in that part of Europe which have so long threatened 
its general peace. 5 

It is important to remember that the statesmen of the time 
were compelled to base their policy upon inadequate and 
frequently contradictory sources of information. They still 
believed in the possibility of preserving the union of Austro- 
Hungarian peoples and liberating the Hapsburg Empire from 
German control. But as it turned out the speeches of Wilson 
and Lloyd George were quite without avail. Whether the 
Dual Monarchy stood by Germany in her defeat or deserted 
her, it was doomed. As Czernin himself confessed, 'Austria- 
Hungary's watch had run down/ l 

'We could have gone over to the enemy,' wrote Czernin. 
'We could have fought against Germany with the Entente on 
Austro-Hungarian soil, and would doubtless have hastened 
Germany's collapse; but the wounds which Austria-Hungary 
would have received in the fray would not have been less 
serious than those from which she is now suffering; she would 
have perished in the fight against Germany, as she has as 
good as perished in her fight allied with Germany.' 

The Entente was determined upon the defeat of Germany, 
and once this was accomplished the break-up of Austria- 
Hungary became inevitable. The solution of federal auto- 
nomy some years before might have settled the Hapsburg 

1 Czernin, In the World War. 37. 


problem, but it was now too late. The disintegration of the 
Dual Monarchy had already gone so far that Austria-Hun- 
gary could no longer be held together except by a girdle of 
German bayonets. A realization of this fact would conceiva- 
bly have hastened the end of the war, for instead of dis- 
cussing such projects as * autonomy* and 'self-government,' 
which irritated and discouraged the rebellious Slavs, Ameri- 
can and Allied leaders might have launched the revolution 
which they could not prevent, and profited by it. As it was, 
the work of propaganda conducted by Northcliffe and Steed, 
with the cooperation of Masaryk and the South Slav leaders, 
which ultimately ate into the morale of the Hapsburg armies, 
was delayed, and assistance which might have proved in- 
valuable to the Entente in the moment of supreme danger in 
the spring of 1918, was left on one side. 


On the very day that President Wilson was drafting his 
speech of the Fourteen Points, Mr. Lloyd George delivered 
an equally comprehensive but quite independent statement 
of war aims to the Trades Union Congress. 1 The Prime 
Minister, soon after his return from the Interallied Confer- 
ence of Paris, appreciated the compelling necessity of a pro- 
nouncement by the British Government, in view of the Rus- 
sian situation and especially in view of the memorandum 
upon war aims issued by the British Labour Conference. 
Colonel House had been given some intimation that Mr. 
Lloyd George might find it advisable to meet the increasing 
demand for an official statement, but he did not realize that 

1 The independence of the speeches of Lloyd George and Wilson is 
proved by the following documents. The reader should remember, how- 
ever, that Lloyd George was as anxious to avoid conflicting statements 
as Wilson. Wiseman wrote: 'House had told Lloyd George in London 
what Wilson was likely to say. 9 Thus there was established a basis for 
a joint declaration of war aims by the Allies, if only the French and 
Italians had expressed their acquiescence. 


he planned to speak so soon. President Wilson agreed that 
the British Government should be warned of his own address, 
and on Saturday morning Colonel House sent to Mr. Balfour 
the following telegram which the President himself drafted. 

Colonel House to Mr. Balfour 1 


WASHINGTON, January 5, 1918 

The President wishes me to let the Prime Minister or you 
know that he feels he must presently make some specific ut- 
terance as a counter to the German peace suggestions, and 
that he feels that in order to keep the present enthusiastic 
and confident support of the war quick and effective here, an 
utterance must be in effect a repetition of his recent address 
to Congress 2 in even more specific form than before. 

He hopes that no utterance is in contemplation on your 
side which would be likely to sound a different note or sug- 
gest claims inconsistent with what he proclaims the objects 
of the United States to be. 

The President feels that we have so far been playing into 
the hands of the German military party and solidifying Ger- 
man opinion against us, and he has information which seems 
to open a clear way to weakening the hands of that party and 
clearing the air of all possible misrepresentation and mis- 


1 Endorsement by E. M. H.: 'This is the cable the President and I 
agreed to send to Lloyd George to-day. The President typed it. Wash- 
ington, January 5, 1918.' 

* The President's Message of December 4, 1917, asking for a declara- 
tion of war against Austria. 

Mr. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, January 5, 1918 

Negotiations have been going on for some time between 
the Prime Minister and the Trades Unions. The main point 
was the desire of the Government to be released from certain 
pledges which were made to the labour leaders earlier in the 
war. This release is absolutely indispensable from the mili- 
tary point of view for the development of man-power on the 
Western Front. Finally the negotiations arrived at a point at 
which their successful issue depended mainly on the imme- 
diate publication by the British Government of a statement 
setting forth their war aims. This statement has now been 
made by the Prime Minister. It is the result of consultations 
with the labour leaders as well as the leaders of the Parlia- 
mentary Opposition. 

Under these circumstances there was no time to consult 
the Allies as to the terms of the statement agreed on by the 
Prime Minister and the above-mentioned persons. It will be 
found on examination to be in accordance with the declara- 
tions hitherto made by the President on this subject. 

Should the President himself make a statement of his own 
views which in view of the appeal made to the peoples of the 
world by the Bolsheviki might appear a desirable course, the 
Prime Minister is confident that such a statement would also 
be in general accordance with the lines of the President's pre- 
vious speeches, which in England as well as in other countries 
have been so warmly received by public opinion. Such a 
further statement would naturally receive an equally warm 


Judging from the tone of the final paragraph of the Balfour 
cable as well as from the fact that House did not send his 
cable until the morning of January 5, it seems likely that Mr. 


Balf our wrote his message before he received that of Colonel 
House. At all events the Balfour cable did not reach Wash- 
ington until Sunday, when it was given to House by Ambas- 
sador Spring-Rice. In the mean time the Saturday afternoon 
papers brought the news of the Prime Minister's statement. 
For a moment the President considered giving up his speech. 

* When George's speech came out in Washington Saturday 
afternoon/ wrote House, 'the President thought the terms 
which Lloyd George had given were so nearly akin to those 
he had worked out that it would be impossible for him to 
make the contemplated address before Congress. I insisted 
that the situation had been changed for the better rather 
than for the worse. I thought that Lloyd George had cleared 
the air and made it more necessary for the President to act.' 

It is of interest historically to emphasize the fact that 
despite the close similarity in the war aims expressed by Mr. 
Lloyd George and President Wilson, the two statements were 
drafted absolutely independently. The President read Mr. 
Lloyd George's speech three days before he delivered his 
own, but the records of Colonel House show that apart from 
the point concerning Alsace-Lorraine (as to which he was 
apparently not affected by the British statement), he made 
no change in what he had already prepared. 1 Because of the 
similarity in the British and American manifestoes, the 
greater seems the pity that the other Allies could not agree to 
a joint statement which might have led to a united diplo- 
matic front. 

President Wilson, having finished the exact terms of the 

1 It has been suggested at various times that President Wilson based 
his Points upon Mr. Lloyd George's speech. Cf. especially an article, 
presumably by Mr. George Harvey, 'The Genesis of the Fourteen Com- 
mandments/ in the North American Review, February, 1919. 


Fourteen Points on Saturday morning, completed the intro- 
ductory and concluding portions of his address on the follow- 
ing afternoon. He asked House to come to his study to dis- 
cuss it as a whole. 

* After luncheon Sunday/ wrote House, 'I went to the 
French Embassy to see Jusserand. He had a number of 
questions he wished to ask, the answers to which he desired 
to transmit to his Government. . . . 

4 When I reached the White House, the President had not 
finished the conclusion of his message and, since Gregory 
wanted to see me, I motored to his house and took him for a 
short drive. When I returned the President was waiting and 
he read to me the message as a whole. I again congratulated 

him I thought it was a declaration of human liberty and 

a declaration of the terms which should be written into the 
peace conference. I felt that it was the most important docu- 
ment that he had ever penned, and remarked that he would 
either be on the crest of the wave after it had been delivered, 
or reposing peacefully in the depths. 

'The point we were most anxious about was as to how this 
country would receive our entrance into European affairs to 
the extent of declaring territorial aims. 

'I suggested to the President that a possible criticism 
Germany might make was that since the United States re- 
fused to permit European nations to interfere in any way 
with the affairs in the Western Hemisphere, European na- 
tions should be equally insistent that the affairs in the East- 
ern Hemisphere be left to the nations therein. He admitted 
that this would be probably said; and the reply that he ex- 
pected to make in that event would be that we were per- 
fectly willing for the same principles to govern in the West- 
ern Hemisphere as we had outlined as being desirable for the 
Eastern Hemisphere. 

He was quite insistent that nothing be put in the message 


of an argumentative nature, and once or twice I suggested 
making an argument in favor of some of the terms, but each 
time he thought it inadvisable because it would merely pro- 
voke controversy. . . . 

'The other points we were fearful of were Alsace and Lor- 
raine, the freedom of the seas, and the leveling of commercial 
barriers. However . . . there was not the slightest hesitation 
on his part in saying them. The President shows an extraor- 
dinary courage in such things, and a wisdom in discussing 
them that places him easily in a rank by himself, as far as my 
observations go. The more I see of him, the more firmly am 
I convinced that there is not a statesman in the world who is 
his equal/ 

The speech of the Fourteen Points was thus completed on 
Sunday afternoon. On Monday the President made his al- 
teration in the statement regarding Alsace-Lorraine so as to 
give it a positive and definite character. He then called in 
the Secretary of State and, upon his advice, made various 
verbal alterations. 

As delivered Tuesday morning, the address came as a sur- 
prise. It was known that Mr. Wilson would speak to Con- 
gress, but very few persons, even among the Allied diplomats 
and members of the Cabinet itself, realized what the subject 
of the message would be. On Tuesday afternoon House met 
a Cabinet officer ordinarily very well informed. * I asked him 
how he liked the President's address. He replied, "What 
speech do you mean, his message to Congress?" He was 
dumbfounded when I told him that the President had just 
delivered what was perhaps the most important utterance 
since he had been in office/ This reticence was carefully 
reasoned and was not based upon a mere love of secrecy and 
surprise; Mr. Wilson met House's objections to it squarely. 
'I was in favor/ wrote House, 'of giving notice to the world 
in Tuesday morning's papers that the President would go 


before Congress in order to give America's war aims, my 
idea being to have the whole world expectant. . . . The Pre- 
sident's argument was that in giving out such a notice as I 
suggested, the newspapers invariably commented and spec- 
ulated as to what he would say and that these forecasts were 
often taken for what was really said.' 


Rarely in history has a speech dealing with such compli- 
cated issues been received with the applause that immedi- 
ately greeted the Fourteen Points. It drew the approval of 
Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Frank Simonds as well as that of Mr. 
Morris Hillquit and Mr. Meyer London. President Alder- 
man of Virginia wrote to House: 'The President's message 
... is simply beyond all praise. I dare to think that in the 
long ages it will take its place among the historic documents, 
not only of American history, but of world history, in its 
breadth, and vision, and strength. It strengthens the pur- 
pose and nerves the arm of every loyal American. It is lead- 
ership of the broadest and noblest type.' 

The most striking appreciation of the address came from 
the New York Tribune, which had ever been unsparing in its 
criticism of the President. 

New York Tribune Editorial 

'Mr. Wilson's address to Congress yesterday will live as 
one of the great documents in American history and one of 
the permanent contributions of America to world liberty. 
In form as in substance the President's statement is beyond 
praise; he has spoken what his country felt; he has translated 
from vague aspiration to clear and definite fact the war aims 
of his fellow countrymen. 

'In a very deep sense Mr. Wilson's words constitute a 
second Emancipation Proclamation. As Lincoln freed the 


slaves of the South half a century ago, Mr. Wilson now 
pledges his country to fight for the liberation of the Belgian 
and the Pole, the Serb and the Rumanian. For the long- 
suffering populations of Alsace-Lorraine and the Italian 
Irredenta the words of the President of the United States 
are a promise of freedom after a slavery worse a thousand 

times than that of the negro In a sense the President 

has created, has visualized to a whole world, the r61e of 
America in the time of supreme tragedy. Without a selfish 
ambition, without hope or covert thought of selfish advan- 
tage, the United States has entered a world war to restore 
justice, honor, liberty in a world assailed by German bar- 
barism and German ambition 

'President Wilson has done nothing finer; there is nothing 
more admirable in American history than his address cf 
yesterday. In a single speech he has transformed the whole 
character and broken with all the tradition of American pol- 
icy. He has carried the United States back to Europe; he 
has established an American world policy and ideal of inter- 
national policy throughout the civilized world. . . . 

'Leadership, after all, consists in arousing in the millions 
not a sense of obedience, but a desire to follow. The greatest 
single merit of Mr. Wilson's latest address is that it will con- 
solidate a nation behind its Chief Executive and establish in 
all minds the conviction that of right and with full accuracy 
and accepted authority he speaks for them. The President's 

words are the words of a hundred million To-day, as 

never before, the whole nation marches with the President, 
certain alike of the leader and the cause. 9 

January 9, 1918. 

In Europe approval of the President's speech was more 
cautious and less general. So far as it laid down conditions 
which Germany must meet, the British press was unanimous 
in its praise and hailed it as 'another notable contribution in 


the drumfire on the enemy's moral position/ The liberal 
papers spoke of the * spiritual insight and divination of the 
greatest American President since Abraham Lincoln.' 'The 
supreme gift of Wilson to the world/ said the Star, 'is the 
gift of articulating and interpreting its anguished vision of 
the future.' But even papers ordinarily so sympathetic as 
the Manchester Guardian and the Westminster Gazette spoke 
with doubt and suspicion of Wilson's insistence upon the 
freedom of the seas,' and conservative opinion entered defi- 
nite reservations regarding the League of Nations. * Our chief 
criticism of the President's speech,' said The Times, 'is that 
in its lofty flight of an ideal it seems not to take into account 
certain hard realities of the situation. We would all rejoice 
to see some such splendid vision as he beholds clothed in 
flesh and blood, and we are all working toward it according 
to our lights, but some of the proposals Mr. Wilson puts for- 
ward assume that the reign of righteousness on earth is al- 
ready within our reach.' 

Something of the same skepticism appeared in French 
comments, although the President's pronouncement upon 
Alsace-Lorraine was hailed with relief. 'President Wilson's 
words,' said La Libert^ 'will make his name popular to the 
remotest villages of France.' But in Italy, the speech, in so 
far as it attracted attention, evoked discontent. In Point IX 
of the speech, Mr. Wilson called for a 'readjustment of the 
frontiers of Italy . . . along clearly recognizable lines of na- 
tionality.' This by no means met popular nationalist aspira- 
tions, and it was in marked conflict with the terms of the 
Treaty of London. 

The Entente Allies did not appear willing officially to ac- 
cept the Wilsonian programme, and in so far as the speech 
was designed to win from them a renunciation of the spirit of 
the treaties, it had no immediate effect. Not until the suc- 
ceeding autumn were they persuaded, and then only with 
the greatest difficulty, to approve the Fourteen Points as the 
basis of the peace settlement. 


Nor did the Fourteen Points exercise upon the Russian 
and German situations the immediate effect for which Colo- 
nel House had hoped. The Bolsheviks were quite untouched 
alike by Wilson's idealistic generalizations and by his speci- 
fic programme. They remained distrustful and unheeding, 
suspicious of Entente imperialism and irrevocably hostile to 
American capitalism. In Germany, the Government, af- 
fronted by Wilson's demand for the surrender of Alsace- 
Lorraine, stood firm for the prosecution of the war and held 
the support of all but the Socialist press. Even Vorwarts 
questioned Wilson's sincerity and intimated that his purpose 
was merely Ho deceive Russia about a general peace and lure 
her once again into the morass of blood of the world war/ 
Symptoms of unrest appeared among the laboring classes, 
but they were insufficient to alter the preparations for the 
great Kaiser's Battle which Ludendorff planned. 

The immediate purpose of the speech of the Fourteen 
Points as a political manifesto was thus not achieved. But 
its final importance remains. Later events gave to it su- 
preme significance and made of it the formal basis of the 
peace settlement. Not so much because of the specific con- 
ditions that Mr. Wilson laid down, similar as they were to 
those of Mr. Uoyd George, as because of the spirit that in- 
spired his speech, it became for liberals all over the world 
something of a Magna Charta of international relations of 
the future. 

'An evident principle,' said Mr. Wilson in the concluding 
paragraph of his speech, 'runs through the whole programme 
I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples 
and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of 
liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong 
or weak. Unless this principle be made its foundation no 
part of the structure of international justice can stand. The 
people of the United States could act upon no other principle ; 


and to the vindication of this principle they are ready to de- 
vote their lives, their honor, and everything that they pos- 
sess. The moral climax of this the culminating and final war 
for human liberty has come, and they are ready to put their 
own strength, their own highest purpose, their own integrity 
and devotion to the test/ 

It was the spirit of this paragraph that persuaded liberals 
in the Entente countries to regard President Wilson as the 
apostle of the new political order, and the smaller nations to 
hail him as their champion. It was this same spirit that com- 
pelled the Germans to ask whether they might not better 
accept the guarantees of security offered by Wilson than con- 
tinue the devastating struggle. In the end it was to Wilson 
that the German Government turned offering to make peace, 
and it was upon the distinct understanding that his principles 
would prevail that they laid down their arms. 1 

The speech of the Fourteen Points was important also be- 
cause of the position which it gave to the proposal for a 
League of Nations. Mr. Lloyd George, in his statement, 
approved the project of a League, but without the emphasis 
of enthusiasm necessary to assure his listeners that the power 
of the British Government would stand behind it. Mr. Wil- 
son, chief of the Government of the United States, made of it 
the essential condition of any settlement, and thereby crys- 
tallized the hopes of those who looked upon the triumph of 
the Allies not as an end but merely as a means to an end. A 
writer whose sense of the practical was keen and whose op- 
portunities for observing the current of events and opinion 
were unrivaled, thus summarized the situation: 

* Thoughtful minds throughout the Alliance were ... in- 
clined to put the war purpose somewhat as follows : The anti- 
social, anti-national spirit of Prussianism must be broken in 

1 See below, Volume IV, Chapter VI. 


the field, and thus degraded and banished from the world; 
but security for free development cannot be found merely in 
the destruction of the enemy, nor can it be won by annexa- 
tions and adjustments, which involve a perpetual armed 
wardenship of the marches; it can be found only in the pro- 
vision of a new international sanction to guarantee by the 
combined forces of civilization the rights of each unit. It will 
be seen that the center of gravity had moved a long way from 
the secret treaties of 1915. 

' Hence a League of Nations was the fundamental war aim; 
the rest were only machinery to provide a clean foundation 
for it. Unfortunately this was not fully recognized at the 
time by any Allied Government save America, and M. 
Clemenceau went out of his way to declare the conception 
unbalanced and unpractical. Yet it was the only practical 
ideal before the world, in the sense that it was the only one 
which met the whole needs of the case. If a statement of war 
aims was meant to solidify the Alliance and drive a wedge 
between Prussianism and the German people, then a sound 
internationalism must be the first item in the programme. It 
offered the Allies an enduring union, based on cooperation 
instead of rivalry; it offered the German people security for 
their rights of possession and development so soon as they 
discarded their false gods; it offered a world weary of strife 
some hope of a lasting peace.' 1 

To those who felt thus, the emphasis that Wilson laid upon 
'a general association of nations,' in his speech of the Four- 
teen Points, guaranteed the leadership for which they were 
waiting. The speech pointed the way towards the great pos- 
itive achievement of the Paris Peace Conference. Because 
of it there stands at Geneva a tablet thus inscribed: 'A la 
m&noire de Woodrow Wilson, Fondateur de la Soci6t6 des 

1 John Buchan, A History of the Great War, iv, 156-57. 


A just peace is everybody's business. 

President Wilson, February 8, 1918 

AT no period of the entire war was the diplomatic situation so 
confused and difficult as during the first three months of 
1918. If it is hard for the historian to disengage the different 
issues and possibilities, how much more difficult for the polit- 
ical leaders of those days, without the assistance of hindsight 
and in daily receipt of contradictory information, to formu- 
late and pursue a consistent policy. In Germany and Aus- 
tria, as in the Allied countries, there was confusion of counsel, 
hopes of a negotiated peace, grumblings of the working class, 
mingled with the preparations for the great battles of the 

The essential military fact was the withdrawal of Russia 
from the war, and the opportunity thus given Ludendorff to 
transfer German divisions to the Western Front, where for 
the first time since 1914 he might hope to hold the superiority 
in man-power over the Allies. If Germany could make peace 
with Russia, he promised that the spring offensive would 
bring victory over the French and British before the Amer- 
ican army could arrive. For the Allies, the problem of man- 
power with which to repel the German onslaught on the 
Western Front had become all-important. 

The political leaders on each side were in the mean time 
concerned with the diplomatic factors which might help to 
turn the tide of military events. While Wilson and the Allies 
by different methods sought to weaken German morale, the 
German diplomats strove earnestly for peace with Russia. 
The Bolsheviks had agreed to an armistice in December, 


but the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk did not run a 
smooth course. Germany had accepted the formula of 'no 
annexations and no indemnities/ but when the principle was 
translated into concrete demands it was plain that the Ger- 
mans planned to separate from Russia the border provinces, 
to form a belt of client states under German dominion. In- 
dignation reigned in Petrograd, to which the Russian delega- 
tion returned for a ten-day conference with the Bolshevik 
Government. 'We had no illusions/ said Trotsky, 'as to the 
democratic leanings of Kuhlmann and Czernin we were 
only too well acquainted with the nature of the German and 
Austrian ruling classes it must, nevertheless, be candidly 
admitted that we did not at that time anticipate that the 
actual proposals of the German Imperialists would be sepa- 
rated by such a wide gulf from the formulae presented to 
us. ... We, indeed, did not expect such an acme of impu- 

'We are equally hostile/ said Trotsky on February 10, 'to 
the Imperialism on both sides, and we do not agree to shed 
any longer the blood of our soldiers in the defense of the one 
side against the other. In awaiting the moment we hope it 
is near when all the oppressed working classes of all coun- 
tries will take in their own hands the authority, as the work- 
ing people of Russia have already done, we are removing our 
armies and our peoples from the war. Our peasant soldiers 
must return to their land to cultivate in peace the field which 
the Revolution has taken from the landlords and given to the 
peasants. Our workmen soldiers must return to the work- 
shops and produce, not for destruction, but for creation. . . . 
At the same time we declare that the conditions as submitted 
to us by the Governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary 
are opposed in principle to the interests of all peoples. . . . 
We cannot place the signature of the Russian Revolution 
under these conditions which bring with them oppression, 
misery, and hate to millions of human beings/ 


With such a spectacular and futile gesture the Russian 
delegation left Brest-Lit ovsk; futile at least so far as the 
military situation went, since following the rupture of the 
armistice proclaimed by Germany, the Russians were shortly 
to be forced to sign the peace and subscribe to even more 
onerous conditions. 

In the mean time the repercussion of the negotiations at 
Brest-Litovsk had important effects in both Austria and 
Germany, and combined with the echoes of President Wil- 
son's speeches and with food troubles to precipitate one of 
the most serious industrial and pacifist manifestations of the 
war. The movement took the form of a general strike, pro- 
testing against the failure to obtain peace with Russia. In 
Germany, where the strike began on January 28, as many as 
a million left work, and the range of the strike covered not 
merely Berlin but Hamburg, Cologne, Kiel, Mannheim, 
Chemnitz, and many other industrial cities. 

In Austria the Foreign Minister, Czernin, and in Germany 
the Chancellor, Hertling, found themselves compelled to re- 
ply specifically to Wilson's speech. They gave their ad- 
dresses on the same day, January 24, and a comparison of 
their statements suggests that they had discussed them be- 
forehand. Both accepted with a greater or less degree of 
enthusiasm the general points in Wilson's speech, such as 
open diplomacy, the freedom of the seas, the removal of eco- 
nomic barriers, the reduction of armaments, a League of Na- 
tions. In the matter of Russia and Poland, Hertling ad- 
vanced the thesis that this settlement concerned only the 
states of central and eastern Europe. 1 Matters directly af- 
fecting Germany, such as Belgium and the return of the 
German colonies, Czernin left to Hertling, who was ambigu- 
ous as to Belgium and demanded the 'reconstitution of the 
world's colonial possessions.' Hertling also insisted that 

1 Lloyd George's speech of January 5 had given him an opportunity to 
make this point. 


there could be no question of a dismemberment of Imperial 
territory (a reference to Alsace), and Czernin promised that 
Austrians would defend the German pre-war possessions 'as 
our own/ In the matter of territorial problems affecting 
Austria, such as Italian, Rumanian, and Serb claims, auto- 
nomy for the subject nations, and the details of the Balkan 
settlement, Hertling left the reply to Czernin, who refused to 
accept any advice as to the government of Austria-Hungary, 
and would not even promise to evacuate territories occupied 
by the Austro-Hungarian armies. 

There was, in all this, little basis for a peace of negotiation, 
for the two disagreed with all of Wilson's concrete proposi- 
tions, and accepted tentatively only his general principles; 
the Brest-Litovsk negotiations indicated the slight value 
that should be placed upon their generalizations. It was 
something, however, that the state of affairs in the Central 
Empires compelled both Czernin and Hertling to regard 
Wilson's Fourteen Points as a basis for discussion. In 
Czernin's speech, furthermore, there was a warmth of tone 
indicating a real determination to secure peace if it were pos- 
sible, which distinguished it from Hertling's rather obvious 
eagerness to evade the issues, and, as the Arbeiter Zeitung 
pointed out, to discover an alibi for not discussing peace on 
the basis of Wilson's speech. 

Hertling, like Czernin, realized the need of peace with 
Russia, for on that depended the transfer of German divi- 
sions to the West. But a general peace was far from his 
thoughts. That must be won on the battlefields and must be 
dictated by Germany; if the victory were less overwhelming 
than Ludendorff promised, Germany would take her profit 
out of the East. In the mean time strikes would be sup- 
pressed by force and the morale of the people maintained 
by speeches. 

Czernin, on the other hand, sought the general peace as 
soon as possible, for Austria had little to gain and everything 


to lose by the prolongation of the war. On February 5, at a 
conference in Berlin, Czernin had some violent passages with 
Ludendorff. The former was in favor of setting down in 
writing that Austria-Hungary was only obliged to fight for 
the pre-war possessions of Germany. Ludendorff was bitter. 
'If Germany makes peace without profit/ he said, 'then 
Germany has lost the war/ 'The controversy was growing 
more and more heated/ Czernin noted, 'when Hertling 
nudged me and whispered: "Leave him alone; we two will 
manage it together without him."' 1 This was in reference 
to the draft of the Brest Treaty, but it suggests the rift be- 
tween the pacific Czernin and the German military party. 


President Wilson watched with interest for any indications 
of the weakening of the 'will to victory' in Germany and 
Austria. The whole tone of his speech of the Fourteen Points 
had been in line with the policy of declaring relentless war 
upon the German military leaders and peace to the German 
people, which he had emphasized in his speeches of the pre- 
vious summer. He would hamstring Ludendorff by encour- 
aging the movement for peace and liberal reform in Germany 
and Austria, if it could be done without weakening the de- 
termination of the Allies to fight until a conclusive peace 
could be achieved. As in the summer of 1917, he commis- 
sioned House to follow events in the Central Empires through 
the reports that came in from Berne, Copenhagen, Paris, and 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, January 31, 1918 

It looks as if things were at last beginning to crack. I do 
not believe Germany can maintain a successful offensive 

1 Czernin, In the World War, 275. 


with her people in their present frame of mine. I hope the 
Entente will keep still and not do anything. . . . The situa- 
tion is so delicate and so critical that it would be a tragedy to 
make a false step now. 

Affectionately yours 


Mr. Carl W. Ackerman to Colonel House l 

February 4, 1918 


This letter is intended as a report on the political situation 
in Germany and the Central Powers. On January 28th I 
asked the Legation to send you a long telegram on this sub- 
ject, but because the wires were * crowded' it could not be 
sent in the form I had written it and I do not know how it 
reached you. 

The address of the President, in which he stated the four- 
teen conditions of peace, has had the greatest effect upon the 
political situation within the enemy countries of any public 
address delivered since the United States has been a bellig- 
erent. It was successful in the following ways: 

1. It separated absolutely, and I think permanently, the 
people and the Liberals from the Annexationists, the Mili- 
tary Leaders and the War Industrial magnates; 

2. It forced the Austro-Hungarian Government to recog- 
nize the peace movement in that country and cemented the 
Dual Monarchy to the German Liberal party; 

3. It gave more momentum to the revolutionary move- 
ment, which is under way in Germany, than the Russian 

4. It increased the possibilities of success for the present 

1 Note by E. M. H.: 'Original sent to the President for his informa- 


confidential negotiations which are taking place with Bul- 
garia; and 

5. It made a tremendous impression upon the small Euro- 
pean neutrals. 

I need not go into detail in regard to these points because 
you have undoubtedly received through the Department full 
information regarding the strikes, the fight over Count Hert- 
ling's reply, and the dispute between Vienna and Berlin. 

After Mr. Wilson's speech was printed in the Swiss papers, 
Dr. Louis Schultess, a former attach^ of the Swiss Legation 
in Washington [was appointed] to study the question of a 
League of Nations and report on what part Switzerland could 
play in the formation of such an organization. 

In my telegram of January 28th I suggested that the 
President reply to Count Hertling and Count Czernin in 
order to force the issue of peace on our terms, which are es- 
sentially the terms of the German and Austrian people, or of 
war on Count Hertling's terms. 

I believe that we should adopt a firm, determined, and un- 
compromising attitude toward Count Hertling on the ground 
that he voiced the sentiments of the German War Party, 
which wants to continue the war, and on the ground that he 
did not speak for the people. 

I suggested that we assume a different attitude towards 
Vienna for the purpose of attempting to widen the gap be- 
tween the two belligerents. 

Since I made these suggestions I have concluded that 
it was fear of revolution more than anything else which 
prompted Count Czernin to aim his remarks at the President 
and say that Austria-Hungary considered the President's 
terms as a possible basis for discussions. I believe our aim 
should be to strengthen the peace party in Vienna and Buda- 
pest so as to force Count Czernin to ask the United States, 
officially, to make peace between the Dual Monarchy and 
the Entente. Unless the Austrian Government succeeds in 


getting food from Russia we may have an opportunity to 
talk separate peace with that country. 

The situation within Germany and Austria-Hungary, to 
my mind, is the following: 

If there is not peace, or a great military victory, there will 
be a revolution. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that there 
are three possible developments: 1. Peace; 2. Reformation; 
3. Revolution, because I do not believe the German army 
and navy will be able to decisively defeat the United States 
and the Allies this year. 

The war has reached the decisive period. To my mind, 
the problem facing the United States is this: 

How far can the United States go in encouraging the peace 
movement and the reform forces within Central Europe 
without weakening the determination of the Allies to fight 
until a just peace can be concluded. 

The solution is: War, relentless war with armies and 
speeches against the German War government but peace 
with the democratic, or reform, peace forces. 
Very sincerely and respectfully 


The policy suggested by Mr. Ackerman, whose knowledge 
of Germany and the German psychology was based on close 
observation, was almost exactly in line with that laid down 
by the President in April, 1917. The war, now in its decisive 
stage, was being fought not merely by generals and soldiers, 
but also by statesmen to gain the enemy peoples. Germany 
had tried in vain to undermine the confidence of the Entente 
peoples in their leaders or in the righteousness of their cause; 
she had no means of victory except that on the field of battle. 
But this new military offensive of Germany, coupled with 
the imperialist demands made at Brest-Litovsk, might en- 
able the Entente leaders to separate the German people from 
their rulers, by strengthening the belief of the German work- 


ing classes that the military leaders were prolonging the war 
and were responsible for their sufferings. If Wilson could in- 
tensify the effect which his speech of the Fourteen Points 
had made upon the German and Austrian workmen, he 
would be contributing as much to Allied victory as twenty 

President Wilson was fully informed of the perils attend- 
ant upon this policy, which were especially emphasized by 
the officials of the French and Italian Governments. The 
determination of the Allied peoples must not be cooled by 
indiscriminate peace talk; any restatement of peace condi- 
tions might lead the working classes to believe that peace 
was already at hand and dull the enthusiasm for enduring 
the struggle until even moderate war aims could be ensured. 
So strongly did the French feel, that the censor refused to 
permit the cabling of one of Mr. Ackerman's articles, in 
which he advocated the Wilsonian policy. 

Mr. Carl W. Ackerman to Colonel House 

April 12, 1918 


. . . May I not call your attention to a conversation I had 
with M. Sabatier, of the Foreign Office, regarding an article 
which I wrote from Switzerland about the recent strikes in 
Germany. The object of this article for The Saturday Evening 
Post was to show the effects of the President's speeches upon 
internal affairs in Germany. I tried to show how the strikes 
were all organized demonstrations in favor of a democratic 
peace. The Foreign Office, after careful consideration, re- 
fused to pass the article for publication, because, as M. 
Sabatier said: 

' We believe that President Wilson and the American peo- 
ple are making a big mistake in paying any attention to the 
so-called democratic movement in Germany. We could not 


pass your article because we thought that it would weaken 
the morale of the American people; that it would make them 
hope that internal troubles in Germany would end the war 
when the war can be ended only by military operations/ 

In reply I stated that I agreed with him that military 
operations were absolutely essential, but that I thought the 
Allies should play every possible card against Germany and 
that the President's speeches were political cards which had 
important political results. He would not agree with this 
statement and said that the Foreign Office could not pass my 
article. (A copy of this article, entitled: 'The Street Parlia- 
ments 5 has been forwarded to Mr. Grew.) . . . 
Very sincerely and respectfully yours 


It is obvious that there was no unity of policy between the 
United States and the Allied Governments regarding the 
attitude that should be adopted toward the German reform 
movement. Wilson wished to encourage the Social Demo- 
crats and weaken the German 'will to victory* by the pro- 
mise of a fair peace. He was disturbed, as he confessed to 
House, by the letters which came from Europe emphasizing 
the unwillingness of Allied leaders to follow him and by the 
suggestion that it was none of his business. 'A just peace/ 
he said to House, 'is everybody's business/ 

Early in February an incident took place giving clear indi- 
cation of the lack of diplomatic coordination between the 
Allies and the United States. On February 4 the Supreme 
War Council, which was in session to consider military plans, 
issued a statement regarding the speeches of Czernin and 
Hertling. The declaration itself was harmless and in accord 
with the facts; namely, that the two speeches did not furnish 
any basis for peace. But the abruptness of its tone and the 
failure to say anything calculated to encourage the Ger- 
man Socialists gave the impression of a challenge, which in 


existing circumstances might throw the dissident elements 
in Germany back into alliance with the Government. 

Statement of the Supreme War Council 

February 4, 1918 

'The Supreme War Council gave the most careful consider- 
ation to the recent utterances of the German Chancellor and 
of the Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, but 
was unable to find in them any real approximation to the 
moderate conditions laid down by all the Allied Govern- 
ments. This conviction was only deepened by the impression 
made by the contrast between the professed idealistic aims 
with which the Central Powers entered upon the present 
negotiations at Brest-Litovsk and their now openly disclosed 
plans of conquest and spoliation. 

'In the circumstances, the Supreme War Council decided 
that the only immediate task before them lay in the prosecu- 
tion, with the utmost vigour, and in the closest and most 
effective cooperation, of the military effort of the Allies until 
such time as the pressure of that effort shall have brought 
about in the enemy Governments and peoples a change of 
temper which would justify the hope of the conclusion of 
peace on terms which would not involve the abandonment, 
in face of an aggressive and unrepentant militarism, of all the 
principles of freedom, justice, and the respect for the law of 
nations which the Allies are resolved to vindicate. . . .' 

From the report of the discussion in the Supreme War 
Council which Mr. Frazier sent to Colonel House, it appeared 
that the declaration was issued with some hesitation, espe- 
cially on the part of the British, who realized the delicacy of 
the situation which might arise if a formal restatement of war 
aims were made without the participation of President Wil- 
son. It also appeared that the Italians were anxious that 


nothing should imply the weakening of their determination 
to cany out their annexationalist projects. The irony of the 
discussion lay in the fact that the political members of the 
Supreme War Council stated that the declaration was meant 
to further the Wilsonian policy, to 'detach the German peo- 
ple from the Military party,' and to serve as c a deliberate 
invitation to the German people to repudiate the ruling 
caste/ At a later meeting, indeed, Clemenceau insisted that 
the declaration was entirely in line with Wilson's policy. 

Afr. A. H. Frazier to Colonel House 

February 4, 1918 

The statement given out for publication was drafted partly 
by M. Clemenceau and partly by Lloyd George. The latter 
stated that he thought best not to make a formal restate- 
ment of the objects of the war, as it would be a declaration 
of only three countries and he felt doubtful whether Presi- 
dent Wilson would endorse such a declaration when neither 
he nor Colonel House was present. He therefore considered 
it better to issue a statement of what the Supreme War 
Council had done in the matter of preparing for the prosecu- 
tion of the War. 

Baron Sonnino objected to a phrase in the original draft 
which read as follows: * moderate conditions laid down by 
Mr. Lloyd George, President Wilson and M. Pichon.' He 
said that such a declaration on the part of Italy would be 
equivalent to a renunciation; that what Italy was fighting for 
was security and the future security of Italy was the very 
reason for which she had entered the war. As an illustration 
he mentioned that although the Allied fleets in the Adriatic 
were three times as strong as the Austrian fleet they were 
able to accomplish little due to the form of the Dalmatian 
coast. In deference to Baron Sonnino's views it was decided 
to make the phrase read 'moderate conditions laid down by 
all the Allied Governments.' 


Baron Sonnino also objected to a phrase occurring in M. 
Clemenceau's draft, reading as follows: 'Dying fury of Ger- 
man domination.' Baron Sonnino was opposed to the phrase 
'unrepentant militarism/ alleging that it was out of keeping 
with the greater moderation of the more recent utterances 
of the Allies and that it would not detach the German people 
from the military party as was its evident intention. Both 
M. Clemenceau and Lloyd George warmly defended the ex- 
pression stating that it was a deliberate invitation to the 
German people to repudiate the ruling caste. The phrase 
was therefore allowed to stand. 


The situation was not without its elements of humor. 
Clemenceau and Sonnino were doing their best to fall in with 
the Wilsonian policy, which they did not favor, and yet their 
most sincere effort was greeted by the liberals in Great Britain 
and the United States as merely another declaration of reac- 
tionary imperialism. The British Liberal weeklies attacked 
Lloyd George for his subservience to Continental imperial- 
ism; they were doubtless correct in assuming that Italian 
claims made impossible any concessions to Austria, but they 
were singularly far from the mark in their belief that but for 
Clemenceau and Sonnino there would have been a complete 
and liberal restatement of war aims. 

President Wilson was seriously disturbed by the declara- 
tion of the Supreme War Council, in part, perhaps, because 
he regarded its tone as unfortunate, in part because, although 
the United States was not formally represented upon the 
political side of the Council, the presence of General Bliss as 
military representative, and of Mr. Frazier of the Paris Em- 
bassy as liaison officer, might give the impression that the 
Supreme War Council spoke for the President in political 
matters. He was further disturbed by a statement regarding 
Russia issued by the Interallied Finance Board, which might 


be taken to express American policy. He sent to House the 
draft of a telegram to Mr. Frazier, as well as a draft state- 
ment to be handed the Allied Ambassadors in Washington, 
which indicated his fear that wires would become crossed if 
the Interallied councils in Europe undertook to issue political 
manifestoes without previous consultation with Washington. 

Draft telegram for Mr. A. H. Frazier 

WASHINGTON, February 5, 1918 

. . . You should make it very clear to the members of the 
Council that this Government objects to the publication by 
the Supreme War Council of any statement of a political 
character which carries with it the inference that the United 
States Government, on account of your presence and the 
presence of General Bliss, has been consulted and approves 
of such statement. You should point out to the members of 
the Council that statements issued by the Supreme War 
Council, upon which the United States Government has a 
military representative, naturally carry the inference that 
they are issued with the approval of the United States Gov- 
ernment. The United States Government objects to the is- 
suance of such statements by the Council as may in any way 
be considered political unless either (1) the text of the state- 
ment is first referred to the President for his approval, or (2) 
it is expressly stated in the statement that it has not been 
submitted to the Government of the United States. . . . 

Draft statement made for Allied Ambassadors in Washington 

February 19, 1918 

Referring to the recent action of the Supreme War Council 
with regard to conditions of peace and to the action of the 
Interallied Board with regard to the recognition of the 
Bolshevik! authorities, I beg to inform you that the President 
wishes very respectfully to earnestly urge that when he sug- 


gested the creation of an interallied board, and gave his 
active support to the creation of the Supreme War Council, 
it was not at all in his mind that either of these bodies should 
take any action or express any opinion on political subjects. 
He would have doubted the wisdom of appointing repre- 
sentatives of this Government on either body had he thought 
they would undertake the decision of any questions but the 
very practical question of supplies and of the concerted con- 
duct of the war which it was understood they should handle. 
He would appreciate it very much if this matter were very 
thoroughly reconsidered by the political leaders of the gov- 
ernments addressed, and that he might be given an oppor- 
tunity, should their view in this matter differ from his, to 
consider once more the conditions and construction under 
which the representatives of the United States should hence- 
forth act. 1 

1 This letter, or one similar, was delivered by Secretary of State Lans- 
ing. The following cable from Wiseman to the Foreign Office explains 
the President's position: 

'Lansing's letter ought to be considered in its relation to the back- 
ground formed by the events of the last few months. 

'The President was always opposed to United States representatives 
joining any Council of the Allies on the ground that they would in- 
evitably become involved sooner or later in political questions 
which the U.S. ought to keep free from. 

'It was pointed out to him, however, on various occasions: by the 
P.M. in a letter brought by Lord R; by W. and by House that the U.S. 
could not have an army in Europe and in fact could not take any large 
part in the war unless they were fully represented at the Councils which 
determined the use to which American troops and American resources 
should be put. 

'The President finally agreed to 

a) Send a temporary American mission to Europe to discuss coopera- 
tion of every sort political, military, financial, etc. 

b) To be represented on the Interallied Supply Council. 

c) To a military representative at the S.W.C. The question of a po- 
litical representative at the S.W.C. was left in abeyance a junior 
official being designated to attend its meetings merely to report on 

'At the same time, the President was always strongly in favour of a 
Supreme War Council with the fullest powers to deal with all aspects of 
the military situation. The coordination of Allied and American military 



President Wilson had already planned himself to make a 
formal reply to the speeches of Czernin and Hertling, and his 
decision was probably reenf orced by his fear that the declara- 
tion of the Supreme War Council might strengthen the posi- 
tion of Ludendorff in Germany. Intent upon driving the 
wedge between the German Socialists and Imperialists, he 
asked House to supervise the collection of excerpts from the 
Socialist press and speeches in the enemy countries. The 
President by utilizing the criticism leveled at the German 
Government by the Socialists themselves, using their own 
phrases, could emphasize the sympathy between them and 
Wilsonian principles and the mutual hostility to German 
imperialism. 1 

effort and, so far as possible, unification of direction has always been in 
the President's opinion essential to victory. 

'On the other hand he has been careful to point out that the U.S. is 
not bound by any of the interallied treaties or agreements nor does the 
U.S. necessarily subscribe to all the war aims of the Allies. 

'He would have had no objection to joining with the Allies in a general 
declaration of war policy but only after such declaration had been care- 
fully considered by him in view of the special position of America. . . . 

' Colonel House reported to the President on his return that it had not 
been found practicable for the Allies in conference at Paris to formulate 
any joint statement of War Aims. The speeches of L.G. and the President 
a little later seemed to indicate that this policy of separate announce- 
ments had been agreed among the Allies. 

'The statement of the S.W.C. at its second meeting came, therefore, 
as a surprise to Washington and was open to two main objections 

'A statement on policy, as distinct from military plans was given out 
without consulting the President, and in such a way that the public here 
at any rate supposed that the U.S. was a party to the statement. The 
second objection was that the statement was not in accordance with the 
President's views or former pronouncements. 

'The President took two steps to remedy this first, he addressed 
Congress on the subjects of the German and Austrian speeches, and later 
instructed Sec. L. to write to the Allied Ambs., no doubt with the idea 
of having the matter on record in case of any future Senatorial investiga- 
tion or enquiry.' 

1 The memoranda based upon this collection and upon an analysis of 
the German press, copies of which were sent to the President, when they 
are compared with German memoirs published since the war, indicate 


Besides appealing to the German Socialists, it might be 
possible to make threats. Hertling's thesis that the settle- 
ment in eastern Europe was none of the Entente's business 
might be met with the rejoinder that in that case western 
tariffs were none of Germany's business, and there was no- 
thing that the Germans feared more than a tariff war after 
the peace. 1 House had discussed this with the French High 
Commissioner. Extracts from his diary tell of the prepara- 
tions for the speech the President planned, as well as the 
policy of economic threats. 

'January 27, 1918: Andr6 Tardieu came to ask if I would 
not advocate a chairman of an international board, consist- 
ing of representatives of Great Britain, France, and the 
United States, for the purpose of working out a plan for an 
economic war against Germany in the event it was necessary. 
His thought was that a plan should be ready . . . even though 
nothing was said of its formation. In reply I thought the only 
thing needful was the passage of a resolution by Congress, 
giving this Government power to put an embargo on raw 
materials for five years after the war. I thought this should 
be done without debate and with but little comment. It 
should be directed at no one, but Germany would get word 
of it through her agents and would know the significance of 
it. ... Tardieu accepted this suggestion as being wise and 
simple. I added that England and France could also pass 
such measures and without comment, and that these laws 
should not be made at the same time, but at different periods 

admirable insight on the part of the State Department official, Mr.W. C. 
Bullitt, who compiled them. 

1 President Wilson developed this idea in his speech of February 11: 
'Count von Hertling,' he said, "wants the essential bases of commercial 
and industrial life to be safeguarded by common agreement and guar- 
antee, but he cannot expect that to be conceded him if the other matters 
to be determined by the articles on peace are not handled in the same 
way as items in the final accounting.' 


not widely separated. He said he would communicate with 
his Government and tell them of my views. 

'January 29, 1918: The President told X that "we have 
tentatively decided to answer the Hertling and Czernin 
speeches in this way: In reply to Hertling's assertion that 
differences between Russia and Germany must be settled be- 
tween the two, and questions between France and Germany 
should be settled in like manner, we will call attention to the 
fact that this is the old diplomacy which has brought the 
world into such difficulties, and if carried to its logical con- 
clusion Germany and the rest of the world cannot object if 
England and the United States should conclude between 
themselves treaties by which the balance of the world would 
be excluded from their raw materials." 

'We discussed the best method of making his views public. 
This morning when I was with him, Lansing suggested that 

he give out an interview The President disagreed with 

this conclusion. He said he wanted to make a habit of deliver- 
ing through Congress what he had to say. . . . 

'He wondered what excuse he could make for going before 
Congress again. I suggested that he get a member of the 
Foreign Relations Committee to write him a letter which 
would call forth a promise to address Congress on the sub- 
ject upon which he desired information. He objected to this, 
as he did not wish Congress to think they could control him 
in any way or take part in handling foreign affairs. I then 
suggested that he state that the questions now pending be- 
tween the nations were of such importance he felt that every 
move he made, or contemplated making, or whatever thought 
he had concerning the international situation, should be com- 
municated through Congress. 

'February 7, 1918 : [New York.] Y was one of my callers. I 
get information from him concerning the German frame of 
mind and how best to foment trouble between the Liberals 
and Imperialists in Germany. I am particularly anxious for 


such information now because of the President's forthcoming 

On the following day House received word through the 
State Department that the President expected to deliver his 
speech to Congress on February 11 and wanted him in Wash- 
ington to discuss the draft he had written. Late in the after- 
noon he reached the White House, where the President met 

'Februarys, 1918: We first cleared the decks,' wrote House, 
*by reading all the despatches bearing on foreign affairs that 
had come during the day, and by reading the address to 
Congress which he had prepared and was holding for criti- 

* We did not finish and start to dress until seven minutes of 
seven. I walked out of my room at seven o'clock, to find that 
the President had beaten me by a half-minute. 

* After dinner we went into executive session and continued 
until bedtime. I did not interrupt while he read the draft of 
the message, but made mental notes of changes I thought 
necessary. ... I felt that it was a remarkable document, but 
knew that much of it would have to be eliminated. . . . 

'The President said he had departed from his usual custom 
and did not first write the address out in shorthand, but had 
typed it from the beginning, and had written it disjointedly 
and in sections. He usually devoted hours at a time to these 
messages, but in this instance on account of the pressure of 

affairs he did not do so I have never advised a quarter as 

many eliminations in any previous address as in this one. He 
had something about Alsace and Lorraine which I asked him 

to cut out He did so without comment. He did not argue 

with me at all when I pointed out changes. This in itself 
showed that he was not confident. 

'The main eliminations were toward the end of the mes- 


sage. I objected to his stating that we had 1,500,000 men 
ready to go to Europe and that we had 10,000,000 men that 
would go if necessary. ... I thought the whole world knew, 
as well as he and I, of the resources of the United States, 
both in men and wealth. 

'I objected to his making positive statements as to 
Czernin's opinions. In one instance I asked him to use the 
expression "it seems" rather than the more positive one 
which he used concerning Czernin. When he had finished 
polishing it off, we went to bed with no conversation upon 
other subjects. 

'February 9, 1918: The President and I went over the 
message again to-day and made some minor changes. Con- 
trary to his usual custom, he had Swem write the address in 
its entirety after we finished the corrections. 

'He called in Lansing to-day around twelve o'clock and 
read it to him. Lansing made two or three suggestions . , . 
which the President adopted and which I think added to its 

'February 10, 1918: I walked to Gregory's again after 
Hoover left. While I was there the President came in and 
I returned with him to the White House. I was glad I did so, 
because it gave me the opportunity to express my feeling that 
his address to Congress still lacked something, and the some- 
thing I thought it lacked was the focusing of the world's at- 
tention on the military party in Germany. I thought he 
should say that the entire world was now in substantial 
agreement as to a just peace with the exception of this small 
group who seemed determined to drive millions of men to 
their death in order to have their will. 

'The President . . . took a pad and pencil and began to 
frame a new paragraph. This paragraph begins: "A general 
peace erected upon such foundations can be discussed," and 
ends with the sentence, "The tragic circumstance is that this 
one party in Germany is apparently willing and able to send 


millions of men to their deaths to prevent what all the world 
sees to be just." . . . 

'The President is not enthusiastic about it [the message], 
but I was certain it would meet with almost universal 

Mr. Wilson delivered his speech in a joint session of Con- 
gress on February 11. He connected it directly with the 
speech of the Fourteen Points by referring to the replies of 
Hertling and Czernin. The series of speeches had thus 
something of the nature of open peace negotiations, char- 
acterized, however, by extreme generalization of phrase. 
The first portion of the President's address was a critical 
analysis of the replies of Czernin and Hertling. Count Hert- 
ling's programme of barter and concession he found totally 
inadequate: 'The method the German Chancellor proposes | 
is the method of the Congress of Vienna. We cannot and N j 
will not return to that. What is at stake now is the peace of ' 
the world. What we are striving for is a new international 
order based upon broad and universal principles of right and 
justice no mere peace of shreds and patches/ The essen- 
tial justice of the final settlement was the business of all 
mankind. If Germany could not accept this principle, she 
could hardly hope for justice of treatment in the commercial \ 
world of the future. In conclusion the President stated in a 
new form the general principles of what he regarded as the 
only safe settlement: 

'First, that each part of the final settlement must be based 
upon the essential justice of that particular case and upon 
such adjustments as are most likely to bring a peace that will 
be permanent; 

* Second, that peoples and provinces are not to be bartered 
about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere 
chattels and pawns in a game, even the great game, now for- 
ever discredited, of the balance of power; but that 


"Third, every territorial settlement involved in this war 
must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the 
populations concerned, and not as a part of any mere adjust- 
ment or compromise of claims amongst rival states; and 

'Fourth, that all well-defined national aspirations shall be 
accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them 
without introducing new or perpetuating old elements of dis- 
cord and antagonism that would be likely in time to break 
the peace of Europe and consequently of the world/ 

Colonel House reported that the speech was well received 
by Congress, but without the enthusiasm that had attended 
earlier addresses of the President. Wilson's purpose was to 
catch the attention of the liberal elements in Germany; in 
the terms of House's diary, the President was 'building a 
fire back of Ludendorff.' Doubtless few of the members of 
Congress understood this purpose, and fewer still sympa- 
thized with it. Mr. Wilson apparently caught this lack of 

'On the return from the Capitol,' wrote House in his 
diary, ' I drove with the President. He was only half pleased 
with his reception and only scantily hopeful of the success 
of his speech 

'After lunch, to Lord Reading's. He has retaken his old 
quarters at No. 2315 Massachusetts Avenue. I was delighted 
to hear him say, "I would have given a year of my life to 
have made the last half of the President's speech." I said he 
would surely want to know why the last half. The reply was 
that the first half was merely a reiteration of Czernin's and 
Hertling's positions, but the last half was a noble utterance, 
both from an oratorical viewpoint and from that of a 
statesman. . . . 

'I returned to the White House, where the President was 
waiting to hear if I had any news from Reading. He was 


delighted when I told him what Reading, Wiseman, and 
Gordon had to say. ... I regard the President's January 
22nd speech of 1917 and his January 8th speech of this year, 
the greatest he has made. In speaking of the January 8th 
speech I told the President that that was a great adventure. 
He stood to win or lose by it, while this speech was a per- 
fectly safe proposition.' 


The first direct result of Wilson's speech was evident on 
February 20, when House was called by telephone from 
Washington and told that a secret peace offer from the 
Emperor of Austria had been picked up by the British In- 
telligence Service, under the direction of Admiral Hall. The 
news did not come as a complete surprise. During the first 
week in February an Austrian Liberal, Dr. Lammasch, had 
been sent to Switzerland, where he had several long con- 
versations with Dr. George Herron, who was supposed to 
enjoy President Wilson's confidence. Lammasch explained 
that the Emperor Karl was sincerely desirous of immediate 
peace and hoped that Wilson would take steps to bring it 
about at once in order to save Europe from the horrors that 
would result from the great German drive in the spring. The 
Emperor himself was ready, he averred, to reform com- 
pletely the Austro-Hungarian Empire, instituting a sort of 
federal system which would assure autonomy and complete 
satisfaction for the subject nationalities. 

Dr. Herron naturally replied that he could not speak for 
the President. He found the Emperor's plan hardly sufficient 
to settle permanently the problems of southeastern Europe, 
a plan which, in his opinion, was designed rather to tide the 
crisis over for the Hapsburg dynasty than to furnish a stable 
basis for peaceful relations between the nationalities. He 
urged Lammasch to persuade the Emperor to proceed with 
more imagination and liberality. Herron himself received 


the impression that so great was the need of Austria, her 
demand for peace would be renewed. 1 

So it proved, for on February 19 Czernin telegraphed to 
the Austrian Ambassador in Madrid a message from the 
Emperor for transmission to the King of Spain, a message 
which contained within it another which he asked the King 
to transmit to President Wilson. A copy was sent to House 
with a request for his opinion. 2 

Here was a direct offer of peace based upon what read like 
a cordial acceptance of the conditions laid down by the 
President in his speech of February 11. But it took no note 
of the speech of the Fourteen Points nor of the more special 
conditions contained therein. Unlike the proposals of Dr. 
Lammasch, which intimated that the Emperor would apply 
the principle of self-government to all the peoples of Austria- 
Hungary, the Emperor in his telegram to the King of Spain 
apparently suggested a peace based upon the status quo. The 
single reference to Italia Irredenta indicated no willingness to 
concede an iota to Italian claims. These were essential parts 
of the general settlement and negotiations could not begin 
without more explicit assurance that Austria accepted the 
terms laid down in the Fourteen Points. The Emperor said 
nothing of German claims. Did he plan a separate or a 
general peace, and was the German Government in agree- 
ment with his acceptance of Wilson's conditions? Their de- 
mands upon Russia at Brest-Litovsk did not indicate the 

The danger of negotiations with Austria had been im- 
pressed upon House by Wickham Steed, foreign editor of 
The Times and the leading English authority upon the Haps- 
burg problem. He was at this moment engaged in the vital 
work of assisting the revolutionary movement among the 

1 This account of the conversations is based upon cables from the 
American Legation in Berne, copies of which were sent to House. 

2 See appendix to this chapter. 


Austrian Slavs, which promised the shortest cut to Allied 
victory in southeastern Europe and which was imperiled by 
any hint that the Allies would throw over the Slavs in order 
to make peace with Austria on the basis of the status quo. 
Another authority on the Hapsburg problem, Andr6 Ch6ra- 
dame, wrote at length to Colonel House indicating the 
sources of danger. 1 

President Wilson was fully warned of the diplomatic 
perils attached to any peace negotiation with Austria, which 
in any case could not be inaugurated without consultation 
with the Allies. On February 23 he asked House to come 
over to Washington. House thus records in his diary the gist 
of the conference: 

'February 24, 1919: We had time before lunch to discuss 
the Austrian Emperor's note to the President, sent through 
the King of Spain, which the British have intercepted and al- 
ready given us. We agreed that it would be well to ask Bal- 
four's opinion of it and we outlined the following cable. The 
President wrote it on his typewriter/ 

Colonel House to Mr. Balfour 


WASHINGTON, February 24, 1918 

In view of the intercepted message from the Emperor of 
Austria to the King of Spain and your recent message to the 
President through me which I received on the 8th, the Pre- 
sident would very much appreciate any comments or sugges- 
tions you may be kind enough to make. The actual message 
has not yet been received from Spain. How far would you 
think it necessary to go in apprising the Entente Govern- 
ments of the character of the message from Austria? 


1 See appendix to this chapter. 


'February 26, 1918: This afternoon, the Spanish Ambas- 
sador asked for an audience and handed the President the 
note from the Emperor of Austria. The President said he had 
difficulty in composing his face and in trying to look sur- 
prised. He has written a memorandum in reply to Emperor 
Charles, which he read to me last night and which ... is non- 
committal and seeks further information. . . . 

* It is one of the most delicate and difficult situations with 
which he has yet had to deal. There is so much involved; it 
is not only the Austrian-German situation, but also the 
question of the Entente and our relations with them. 

'February 28, 1918: The President was pleased with his 
interview with the French Ambassador. He expected rather 
a stormy time because he intended to tell him of his com- 
munication to the Austrians. Jusserand thought he was act- 
ing wisely. The Ambassador said that his Government had 
picked up some information which led them to believe that 
the two Kaisers, Wilhelm and Karl, had gotten the Apostolic 
Delegate in Munich to take their peace terms to Rome for 
the purpose of having the Pope use his good offices toward 

Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, February 27, 1918 

Please express to President my very high appreciation of 
his confidence. 

My views about Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs' 
message to him for what they are worth are as follows: 

1. I am profoundly impressed by difference between Aus- 
trian Minister for Foreign Affairs' official utterance conveyed 
through the King of Spain and personal policy of Emperor of 
Austria as embodied in a conversation between Professor 
Lammasch and Dr. Herron, of which we had an account from 
our Minister in Berne. First does not appear to go beyond 


suggestion for return to status quo ante except that Bulgaria 
is to obtain a great deal that she did not possess before the 
war, while Serbia is to get something and to lose something, 
balance of loss and gain being on the whole against her. 

These proposals are known to the German Emperor and 
doubtless represent his policy. They amount to a success for 
the Central Powers and can hardly be reconciled with public 
declarations of President on the subject of peace terms. 

2. Proposals of Professor Lammasch through Dr. Herron 
are of very different tenour and I presume represent opinions 
of Emperor of Austria (in his then mood) unaffected by Ger- 
man influences. Professor Lammasch lays down with great 
emphasis and in quite unambiguous language the right of 
peoples to choose form of government and Emperor is re- 
ported as expressly desirous to see this principle applied to his 
own dominions. This scheme as far as it goes is in harmony 
with principles laid down by President and might therefore 
form a starting-point for discussion. But it is open to two 
very serious objections. In first place, it ignores Italy, and, in 
second place, unless matters be very carefully handled, it may 
alienate subject races of Austria whom President desires to 
benefit. Various Slav peoples have so often been fooled by 
phrase 'self-government' that they will be disposed to regard 
all schemes which are so described as giving them old slavery 
under a new name. They will draw no distinction between 
what President desires to give them and what they have al- 
ready. What they have already leaves them completely sub- 
ject, in Austria to a German minority, in Hungary to a Mag- 
yar one. 

I need not insist on dangers both from Italian and Aus- 
trian side which conversations begun on Lammasch basis in- 
evitably cany with them. The future of the war largely de- 
pends on supporting Italian enthusiasm and on maintaining , 
anti-German zeal of Slav populations in Austria. Both ' 
Italians and Slavs are very easily discouraged and are quick 


to find evidence in foreign speeches that their interests are 
forgotten or betrayed. I fear Austrian statesmanship will 
not be above using any indication that President had a ten- 
derness for Austrian Empire, as a means of convincing Slavs 
that having nothing to hope for from the Allies they had best 
make terms with Central Powers. 

3. But some risks must be run and, if President feels 
strongly that it is really essential not to close door to further 
discussion, it seems to me that it might be worth while to take 
some steps to ascertain if the Lammasch conversations really 
represented the mind of the Emperor and whether he would 
be prepared to treat them as a basis of discussion. Austro- 
German proposal through King of Spain appears so com- 
pletely inconsistent with President's public declarations that 
it is hard to see how any discussion round a table can bridge 
the differences between them. In answer to question which 
President asks me about taking the Allies into his confidence, 
I suggest it must largely depend on policy he intends to pur- 
sue. When German proposals for a conference last summer 
were conveyed to me by King of Spain, I called Ambassadors 
of great belligerents including Japan to Foreign Office and 
informed them of everything that had occurred. This, in the 
circumstances, was quite easy and avoided all occasion for 
suspicion. It may not be so easy now. But my advice would 
be to follow this precedent if Austrian Minister for Foreign 
Affairs 9 proposals are in question: but if, on the other hand, 
the President means to follow up Lammasch-Herron line I 
should in his place content myself with telling the Allies very 
confidentially that I was carrying on informal conversations 
with Austria and would communicate further with them if 
occasion arose. 

I offer these suggestions with utmost diffidence and only 
in consequence of direct request which you have conveyed to 
me from President. 



Colonel House to Mr. A. J. Balfour 


WASHINGTON, March 1, 1918 

The President has asked me to thank you for your message. 
We waited until it arrived before coming to a decision. The 
President is glad to find (as he fully anticipated) your view 
is substantially in accordance with his own. He has replied 
to the King of Spain's message in a way which will not close 
the door to further discussion, but rather develop and probe 
what the Emperor of Austria has in mind. We feel that if 
this message indicates a genuine desire to meet the just 
demands of the Allies, it ought not to be rejected; and if, on 
the other hand, it is merely designed to cover annexationist 
schemes, it can be best met by demanding that the Central 
Powers shall apply the principles they profess to hold to con- 
crete cases. If the Germans are not sincere in their expressed 
desire for peace, is it not of the highest importance to expose 
this before whole world the German people themselves, if 
they will listen ; certainly before the neutrals and any of those 
in Allied countries and the United States (particularly in 
Labor and Socialist circles) who may still believe in German 
professions. If any further conversations take place the 
United States will at the same time redouble her efforts to 
equip her own forces and assist the Allies. The President is 
well aware that an efficient army is at the present moment 
the best guarantee against the intrigues of German militar- 
ism. He cannot, of course, in any sense commit the Allies by 
these conversations, but he wishes to assure you that he has 
no intention of allowing the United States to be committed 
to any further steps unless the Central Powers are prepared 
to translate general principles into frank and concrete as- 

The President will inform the Allied Ambassadors in the 
general sense of the above. He has considered most carefully 


and is bearing in mind the very just observations you make 
in your message. 


Careful investigation of Austria's attitude failed to de- 
velop any possibility of winning the Vienna Government to 
an acceptance of the conditions which Wilson had laid down, 
or of separating Austria from Germany. It is possible that if 
it had been in his power the Emperor Karl would have made 
broad concessions; but he was bound to the chariot wheel of 
Germany. A peace based upon the status quo represented a 
victory for Austria-Hungary; it was the integrity of the 
polyglot empire for which she was fighting. Naturally she 
accepted the principle of no annexations. Such a peace was 
impossible for either France or Italy, since their purpose was 
the removal of conditions which had long threatened the 
peace of Europe and would disturb it in the future so long as 
Alsace-Lorraine and Italia Irredenta remained in the hands 
of their enemies; they regarded the annexation of these re- 
gions not as a spoil of conquest but as an essential and logical 
part of the general purpose of pacification. It was possible, 
indeed, to go farther and maintain that there could be no 
stable peace in southeastern Europe so long as the Slavs 
remained under Austrian domination. 

The impossibility of reaching any arrangement with 
Austria was proved beyond a peradventure by the conversa- 
tions of General Smuts and Count Mensdorff , both of whom 
sought earnestly for a common ground of negotiation. A 
memorandum drafted by Count Czernin or under his super- 
vision, indicated the utter futility of these or other conversa- 
tions. A copy of the memorandum was given to House. 

Count Czernin 9 s Memorandum 

'The Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs finds it difficult 
to believe that the declarations of the British messenger 


[General Smuts] really tend towards a general peace based on 
justice, since they leave aside the only difficulty in the way of 
a just and lasting peace ; e.g., the desire for annexation on the 
part of France and Italy. 

4 The Central Empires will never recognize this desire, 
which appears to them unjustified. So long as Italy wishes to 
annex Austrian territory and France declares that she cannot 
make peace without acquiring Alsace-Lorraine, peace with 
these powers is impossible. If, however, they abandon their 
aims of conquest, the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs 
sees no obstacle to the conclusion of peace at once. So long as 
England supports her allies in their annexation schemes no 
one in the Central Empires will believe she seeks a just and 
lasting peace. The Central Empires have not the slightest 
desire to interfere with internal affairs in the Allied coun- 
tries; neither do they wish others to interfere in theirs. 

'The Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs feels that the 
reproach with regard to the peace with Rumania is unjusti- 
fied and the proof of this is that the Rumanian people wish 
for nothing more than the formation of a Margholiman 
Ministry such as will allow them to draw closely to the Cen- 
tral Powers in a profitable manner. 1 The Rumanian people 
feel that the benefits which a rapprochement will confer will 
be greater than the sacrifices which the peace imposes upon 

* As regards after war conditions Count Czernin declares he 
is resolutely determined to adhere to a programme which 
will aim at preventing future wars. But first the present war 

1 Nothing could more effectively stimulate distrust in the candor of 
Czernin than this paragraph. The peace imposed upon Rumania at 
Bucharest was one of ' violence* in the extreme; heavy economic pen- 
alties were laid upon Rumania, and a strip of territory seized along the 
old frontier which put Rumania absolutely at the mercy of Austria- 
Hungary. Czernin's reference to the desire of the Rumanians for a 
rapprochement with the Central Empires suggests an ill-chosen touch of 
irony. Margholiman represented the pro-Teuton elements in Rumanian 
political circles. 


must be brought to an end, which will only be possible when 
France and Italy no longer speak of conquest. It will be 
possible then to discuss the future.' 

The peace offers of Austria were doubtless prompted in 
part by a vague hope of disturbing the diplomatic unity of 
the Allies, in part by a nervous anxiety to cast out feelers 
that might perchance lead to peace negotiations before the 
collapse of the Hapsburg Empire. They had merely passing 
interest and left no effects. It was quite otherwise with the 
diplomatic negotiations between the Central Powers and 
Russia, which were finally consummated early in March. 

The Trotsky policy of 'no peace, no war/ which had led 
to the rupture of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations, proved a 
magnificent gesture but little more. The German armies 
advanced steadily eastward, and on February 24 the Soviet 
Government, at the inspiration of Lenin, accepted conditions 
infinitely more drastic than those which they had previously 
refused. A new delegation, from which Trotsky was con- 
spicuously absent, left for Brest and on March 3 signed the 
treaty of Brest-Litovsk. 

The effect in Germany and in Austria was an immediate 
revulsion of feeling in favor of the Governments. In Ger- 
many all parties, with the exception of the minority Social- 
ists, supported the Berlin plan of erecting a chain of buffer 
vassal states along the eastern frontier of Germany and 
Austria-Hungary, at the expense of Russia. The success of 
the Government in its Russian policy, moreover, created a 
willingness to support the sacrifices of the spring battles, 
which according to the promises of the military leaders 
would force the Entente to recognize the futility of further 

It was useless, then, for the United States or for the Allies 
to continue any emphasis upon the Wilsonian policy of 
making friends with the German opponents of German 


imperialism. For the moment they were hypnotized by its 
diplomatic triumph at Brest-Litovsk. 'It will not be long/ 
wrote W. C. Bullitt, who was making a special study of the 
problem for Colonel House, 'before the President can again 
appeal to the German Socialists and Liberals. But to-day a 
scathing indictment of German policy in the East would 
serve merely to unify the people behind the Government. 
For the present, therefore, we had better fight and say 


The Emperor Karl to the King of Spain 

February 20, 1918 

The European situation has been materially cleared by President Wil- 
son's speech on the one hand and by Count Czernin's on the other and 
the points at issue have been reduced to a certain minimum; hence the 
time seems to have come when a direct discussion between one of my 
representatives and one representing Mr. Wilson might clear up the 
situation to such an extent that no further obstacle would stand in the 
way of a World's peace congress. 

Your magnanimous desire so frequently expressed to pronounce pro- 
posals for peace prompts me to request you to forward the following 
message through a secret channel to President Wilson. 

'In his speech of February 12th President Wilson expressed four main 
principles as the foundation of an understanding to be hoped for. My 
position in regard to these four principles can be summed up as follows: 

' In point one President Wilson demands, according to the German 
text before me, "that each part of the final settlement must be based on 
the essential justice of that particular case and upon such adjustments 
as are most likely to bring about a peace that will be permanent." With 
this guiding principle I am in agreement. Every man of principle and 
intellect must desire a solution which assures a lasting peace and it is 
only a just peace, securing vital interests, that can afford such a solution. 

'Points two and three belong together and are to the effect that 
"peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to 
sovereignty as if they were chattels and pawns in a game, even the great 
game, now forever discredited, of the balance of power, but that every 
territorial settlement involved in the war must be made in the interest 
and for the benefit of the populations concerned and not as a part of any 
adjustment or compromise of claims among the rival states." 

'The question of territory I believe will resolve itself very simply if all 
governments expressly declare that they renounce conquests and annexa- 
tions. Of course all states would have to be placed on the same footing. 


If the President will endeavor to bring his allies into line in this respect, 
Austria will do everything in her power to induce her own allies to take 
up this position. As regards what might be accomplished in respect of 
possible frontier modifications in the interest and in favor of the peoples 
concerned similar friendly conversations may be carried on between 
state and state for, and this seemed to be the opinion of the President 
too, a lasting peace could scarcely be promoted if in a desire to avoid a 
forcible transference from the sovereignty of one power to another we 
wished to prevent a corresponding territorial settlement in other parts of 
Europe where hitherto there has been no fixity of frontiers as in the 
case of the parts inhabited by Bulgars. However the principle must 
remain that no state shall gain or lose anything and the pre-war posses- 
sions of all states be regarded as inviolable. 

'Point Four. "All well defined national aspirations shall be accorded 
the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded to them without introducing 
new or perpetuating old elements of discord and antagonism that would 
be likely in time to break the peace of Europe and consequently of the 

'This statement too, so clearly and aptly put by the President, is 
acceptable as a basis. Again I lay the greatest stress on the fact that 
any fresh settlement of conditions in Europe should not increase the risk 
of future conflict, but rather diminish it. The President's sincerity in 
saying "that the American Government was quite ready to be shown 
that the settlements she has suggested are not the best or the most en- 
during," arouses in us a high hope that we may in this question too reach 
some agreement. In this exchange of opinion we shall be in a position to 
furnish conclusive proof that there are national demands the satisfying 
of which would be neither good nor enduring nor would they provide for 
the grievances which are continually put forward, a solution which would 
meet the wishes of the states affected. We shall be able to establish this 
in case of the national claims of Italy to the part of the Austrian Tyrol 
inhabited by Italians by means of the proof of indisputable manifesta- 
tions and expressions of the popular will in this part of the country. I 
must therefore for my part most strongly urge that my representative 
discuss with the President every possible means of preventing fresh 
crises. In the principle already enunciated of an entire renunciation of 
annexations the demand of the complete surrender of Belgium is appar- 
ently included. All questions of detail such as Serbia's access to the sea, 
the granting of the necessary commerce and navigation outlets for Serbia 
and many other questions could be certainly cleared up by discussion 
and prepared for a peace conference. 

'The second main principle which the President had already estab- 
lished is the unconditional avoidance of a future war; with this I am in 
complete accord. 

'As regards the third point laid down by the President, the main pur- 
pose of which is general disarmament and freedom of the seas for the 
prevention of future world wars, there is no difference of opinion between 
the President and myself. In view of all this I hold that there exists such 
a degree of harmony between the principles laid down by the President 


on the one hand, and myself on the other, that results might be expected 
from an actual conference and that such a conference might bring the 
world considerably nearer to the peace fervently desired by all the 

If you will be kind enough to forward this to the President I believe 
you will render the cause of peace in general and the whole human race 
the greatest service. 


M . Andrt Chtradame to Colonel House 

February, 1918 

Having kept a special memory of the kindly welcome you were good 
enough to give me during your stay in Paris, allow me to send you here- 
with a cutting from a Vienna newspaper, reproduced this morning by one 
of our great Paris journals, which refers to a particularly important point 
to which I draw your careful attention. It is clearly evident from the 
text that Czernin's recent rhetorical manifestations were but pacifist 
manoeuvres resulting from a very close understanding with Berlin. This 
is a fact which has never been doubted by those who, like myself, have 
studied Austria and the Government at Vienna at close range during the 
last ten years. 

As is recorded by the Vienna newspaper, the Government at Vienna 
has developed its pacific offensive "with remarkable success/ This is 
unfortunately true. The recent declarations of Entente statesmen which 
it has been possible to interpret as favouring the preservation of Austria- 
Hungary, have encouraged the audacity of our adversaries who respect 
nothing save force, and whose already immeasurable ambitions are only 
whetted by any concession. Furthermore these declarations have been 
the cause of an undeniable moral depression on the part of the Allies of 
Western Europe and of the Slav and Latin peoples oppressed by Austria- 
Hungary. It would be highly desirable that the people of the United 
States should be assured that those who, like myself, preach the dis- 
memberment of Austria-Hungary as indispensable, do not dream for a 
moment of seeing constituted in the place of Austria-Hungary a swarm 
of small States, too small to be able to exist comfortably. 

As a matter of fact it is possible to conceive that states such as Bo- 
hemia, Yugo-Slavia, a democratized Magyar State, whilst they would 
each remain politically independent, should come to an understanding to 
form one economic territory, as it is to their interest to do so. The term 
'Austria-Hungary* in reality denotes, not a nation, for such does not 
exist, but a system of States based on the oppression of nationalities. 
Also if the hypothetical idea is put about the United States that Austria- 
Hungary must be maintained, in Europe it is considered as an opinion in 
sharp contradiction with the principle proclaimed by President Wilson 
that all peoples should be free to dispose of themselves. One fact proves 
how dangerous it is to believe that the Government of Vienna differs from 
that at Berlin. The greatest harm that has been done in the last weeks is 
the result of the visit of a member of the British Government, General 


Smuts, a Boer general who knows nothing about Austria-Hungary, and 
who, nevertheless went to Berne to start conversations with regard to a 
separate peace with Austria-Hungary. These conversations had, natu- 
rally, no chance of success, but they were immediately used by the 
people at Vienna and at Berlin to depress the morale of the Slav and 
Latin populations of Austria-Hungary, by telling them that Allies have 
betrayed them. Moreover, steps such as those taken by General Smuts, 
which are in open contradiction with the pact of London, are of a nature 
to imperil the trust which should exist amongst allies. And, evidently, 
this trust must be preserved intact. 

For the same reasons it would be infinitely dangerous that the plan 
put forward by Allied Socialists to hold an International Conference 
should bear fruit. In reality, this decision could but decide the destruc- 
tion of Allied moral resistance on the Western Front. The discussion 
about Stockholm contributed in a considerable proportion to Russia's 
dissolution. That experience should carry the conviction that the same 
mistakes should not be repeated in a scarcely different form. We there- 
fore count upon President Wilson yet to render the Allied cause the im- 
mense service of putting aside this redoubtable trap. I will be particu- 
larly happy, Colonel, if you will be kind enough to transmit to the 
President these various points of view, in so far as you consider it useful 
to do so. I believe them to be absolutely true, because the events justify 
them. And I am convinced that truth is indispensable to victory. 

Please receive, Colonel, the assurances of my very high consideration. 



I have been sweating blood over the question what is right and feasible to 

do in Russia. It goes to pieces like quicksilver under my touch 

President Wilson to Colonel House, July 8, 1918 

THE advent of the Bolsheviks to power in Russia was de- 
stined in the end to bring difficulties upon Germany, since 
the contagion of social rebellion soon touched the German 
troops on the Western Front. 2 But for the moment the 
pacifist determination of the Soviet leaders was translated 
into immediate German profit at Brest-Litovsk and enabled 
Germany to concentrate her military effort in the West. To 
the Allies, many of whom assumed that the Bolshevik 
revolution was the work of German propaganda, it seemed 
of the first importance to reconstruct the Eastern Front by 
sending in an expeditionary force which might serve as 
focus for the mobilization of anti-German elements in Rus- 
sia. They tended to underestimate the essential factors that 
had compelled Russia to make peace and they believed that 
with Allied assistance a fighting front could be reestablished 
and the Bolsheviks overthrown. 

The French were the most vigorous in their demand for 
military intervention in Russia. They raised the problem 
at various times during the Interallied Conference at Paris 

1 This chapter is not designed to be a sketch of American policy in the 
Far East at this time, but merely to throw light on the situation as it was 
viewed by Colonel House. Among his papers are a mass of documents 
relating to the Siberian expedition; but since he was not in as close re- 
lationship with the statesmen and events of the Far East as he was with 
those of Europe, his papers do not reflect the history and policies of the 
war period so completely for the Far East as for American relations with 

1 LudcndorjjPs Own Story, i*. 331, 334, and passim. 


in late 1917. On December 1, Clemenceau discussed with 
House the possibilities of intervention and urged upon him 
the desirability of a Japanese expeditionary force. Previous 
to the revolution, he said, the old Russian Government had 
been unwilling to solicit Japanese military aid. But Russia's 
withdrawal, after the Bolshevik revolution, had changed the 
situation. Russia was out of the game. It was the moment 
for Japan to take her place. 

Colonel House was then and always opposed to military 
intervention in Russia. He did not believe that a Japanese 
expedition or any other would serve to build up a new fight- 
ing front against Germany in the East. The fighting spirit of 
Russia, he insisted, was burnt out; the industrial organi- 
zation of the country, so necessary to continued war, was 
shattered. The Bolsheviks were in control, not because of 
German gold, but because they had satisfied the only real 
demand of the Russian peasants: the distribution of land. 
This argument he based upon the reports he received from 
the American Red Cross Mission, supported by those of the 
British Consulate in Moscow. The following is typical: 

Mr. Arthur Bullard to Colonel House 

PETROGRAD, December 12, 1917 

... It is no use crying over spilt milk. But I think there 
was a chance months ago to illumine a fighting spirit 
in the Russian army. If the soldier had been promised his 
land, if he had been made to believe that continued fighting 
meant the defense of the Revolution, if the real democratic 
idealism of the allied nations had not been hidden by the 
diplomatic rebuff to the Russian demand for a frank state- 
ment of war aims, the miracle might have been accomplished. 
But the Provisional Government and Kerenski were doomed 
because they refused to meet these two burning issues of the 


people 'Land anS peace* and contented themselves 
with busy activity in the political combinations of Petrograd. 
It was inevitable that some party should arise that would 
try to meet the popular demands. It might have been any 
one of the half-dozen so-called political parties. It happened 
to be the Bolsheviki, because they had the men of sufficient 
daring to cut all the Gordian knots, to meet the real issues 
frankly, daringly, unscrupulously. . . . 



If Russia were both unwilling and unable to stay in the 
war it would be useless to attempt to force her by means of 
an expeditionary force, and it would be very costly at a time 
when the Allies needed all their man-power for the coming 
struggle in the West. Any attempt to interfere in Russian 
politics, apart from the moral issues involved, might prove 
exceedingly dangerous. What chance was there to oust the 
Bolsheviks, who appeared to the peace-hungry and land- 
hungry Russians as the first leaders who had made a sincere 
effort to satisfy their needs? Would not such interference 
merely strengthen the control of Lenin and Trotsky? Was it, 
indeed, certain that if the Bolsheviks were overthrown they 
would be replaced by a party able better to withstand the 
Germans? Trotsky showed no inclination to be tricked by 
Berlin or to make any proposal which would be of direct aid 
to Germany. 

House concluded that, so far as the United States was con- 
cerned, any effort at intervention, except at the request of 
the Russian Government, would be a mistake. He so advised 
Wilson on his return from Europe in December, at the same 
time urging that the President declare American friendliness 
to Russia and provide whatever help the Russians might ask. 

*Andr6 Tardieu and Thomas W. Lamont called/ wrote 


House on January 2, 1918. 'Tardieu has just returned from 
France and desired to get in touch with the situation on this 
side. Lament came to tell of Russia and of Thompson's work 
there. 1 He found I was in partial agreement with Thompson 
and therefore in disagreement with the English, French, and 
American Governments regarding the policy that should be 
adopted toward Russia at this time. God only knows who is 
right, but, at least, I feel that I am on the safe side when I 
advise that literally nothing be done further than that an 
expression of sympathy be offered for Russia's efforts to weld 
herself into a virile democracy, and to proffer our financial, 
industrial, and moral support in every way possible.' 

A week later the President delivered his speech of the 
Fourteen Points, in which he included a special appeal for 
Russia, conceived in the friendliest spirit of aid and breathing 
no reproaches, either against the Bolsheviks or the Russian 
people for their withdrawal from the war against Germany. 
So far as Russia was concerned, the effects of the speech were 
not what House had hoped. Trotsky was engaged in his par- 
adoxical plan to cease war without making peace with Ger- 
many, and it does not appear that at this moment he put faith 
in Wilson's professions of help; still less Lenin. Between the 
bourgeois capitalistic republic of the West and the commu- 
nistic revolution of the East there could be little sympathy. 2 

1 Colonel William B. Thompson had been Chief of the American Red 
Cross Mission in Russia. 

2 Radek, the propagandist of the Bolsheviks, later spoke of the Four- 
teen Points as 'a very deliquescent programme of political rascality* and 
termed Wilson the 'prophet of American imperialism.' Cf. the following 
letter written to Colonel House by Lincoln Steffens, February 1, 1919: 
"... One clog in your peace machinery is the failure of Trotzky and the 
Russians to believe in the sincerity of President Wilson. I understand 
their reasoning. I used to hear them say, even in my day (last spring) 
that what the President said was what they, the Russians, thought; but 
they argued as hard-headed Socialists along the line of economic deter- 
mination; to wit, the United States is not a democracy. It is a plutocracy; 
it is a part of the capitalistic system. Therefore the head of it can't mean 
literally what Mr. Wilson says. He must be playing some game. . . .' 



In the mean time the Allies decided to press their plans for 
Japanese intervention in Siberia, partly on the ground that 
elements in the Far East might be organized against the 
Bolsheviks and 'therefore against Germany/ partly to pro- 
tect the military stores of the Allies at Vladivostok. The 
cooperation of the United States Government in these plans 
was obviously desirable and Mr. Balfour cabled to Colonel 
House, for transmission to the President, an exposition of the 
factors which had led to the decision. 

Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, January 30, 1918 

Instructions have been sent, by telegraph, to Colville 
Barclay to urge that Japan shall be asked by the Allies to 
occupy the Siberian Railway as their mandatory. I hope the 
scheme will receive very careful consideration in spite of the 

many serious difficulties it presents At first sight the 

occupation of the Siberian Railway may appear inconsistent 
with due respect for the rights of the Government now at the 
head of affairs at Petrograd. We do not wish to quarrel with 
the Bolsheviks. On the contrary, we look at them with a 
certain degree of favour so long as they refuse to make a 
separate peace. But their claim to be the Government of all 
the Russians, either de facto or dejure, is not founded on fact. 
The forced dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, in par- 
ticular, makes their claim no better than that of the autono- 
mous bodies in South East Russia which the occupation of 
the Siberian Railway is intended to assist; while there is 
much less probability of their helping to defend the Ruma- 
nian army, to repeal attacks on Armenia by Turkey and of 
their refusing to furnish supplies to the Germans. . . . 

I trust you will not mind my putting these considerations 


before you, but the question is regarded as one of great 
military importance by the Cabinet. You will realize that 
[it] is also one of immediate urgency. 


Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, February 2, 1918 

I have never changed my opinion that it would be a great 
political mistake to send the Japanese troops into Siberia. 
There is no military advantage that I can think of that would 
offset the harm. Leaving out the ill feeling which it would 
create in the Bolsheviki Government, it would arouse the 
Slavs throughout Europe because of the race question if for 

nothing else 

Affectionately yours 


The President was quite as strongly opposed to the sug- 
gested Japanese expedition as House. It is likely that he 
believed, on what the State Department regarded as solid 
evidence, that the Japanese themselves were the instigators 
of the plan for an invasion of Siberia; and they wished the 
expedition to be exclusively or overwhelmingly Japanese in 
order to ensure an occupation of the Maritime Provinces. 

Such a development Mr. Wilson constantly endeavored 
to forestall, and this determination on his part underlay 
American policy as regards the Far East, a policy warmly en- 
dorsed both by the Department of State and by the military 
leaders. But the European Allies constantly urged Japanese 
intervention. Late in February Wilson took up with House 
the conditions under which he might safely approve it. 

'February 25, 1918: We discussed at great length/ House 
wrote in his diary, 'the question of Japanese intervention in 


Siberia, but came to no conclusion. There are arguments 
both for and against it. My thought was that unless Japan 
went in under a promise to withdraw, or at least be subject 
to the disposition of the peace conference, the Entente in 
backing her would place themselves in exactly the same posi- 
tion as the Germans now occupied toward Western Russia, 
to which there is such vociferous objection among the 
Western Powers/ 

Under continual pressure from the French and the British, 
President Wilson wrote a memorandum in which he with- 
drew his objections to the Allied note requesting Japanese 
intervention, although he did not go so far as to join with the 
Allies in making the request. 1 The note was not formally 
circulated, but its contents were pretty generally known to 
the Allied Ambassadors. Colonel House, who may have 
weakened in his opposition to Japanese intervention during 
his discussions with the President at Washington, contin- 
ued to emphasize the difficulties involved in the Allied pro- 
position, especially after a conversation with Ambassador 
Bakhmetieff. 'The Russian Ambassador/ he wrote on March 
2, in New York, * desired to call my attention to the danger 
of the Japanese expeditionary force into Siberia. He thought 
it would throw the Russians into the arms of the Germans 
for, between the two, there would be no question as to which 
they would choose. We did not disagree upon this posi- 

Colonel House to the President 

[Memorandum] * 

March 3, 1918 

1. I think it is necessary under the circumstances for the 
note to go to the Japanese, but before it is sent the Allied 

1 The text of this note is printed in the appendix to this chapter. 
1 Transmitted by telephone. 


Ambassadors should be called together and it should be 
pointed out where this venture may lead. 

(a) The lowering, or even loss, of our moral position, which 
will undoubtedly have the effect of dulling the enthusiasm of 
our people for the war, in exchange for a vague and nebulous 
military advantage. 

(b) Suggest that at the same time this statement is de- 
livered to the Japanese they should be requested to make a 
statement of their reasons for this action and policy in regard 
to Siberia. This statement should be made along the lines of 
the President's note so that their position may be favorably 
contrasted in the eyes of the world with that of Germany. 

2. Does he [the President] not think it would be well for 
me to cable Balfour fully outlining the difficulties and dan- 
gers as we see them? 

3. The Japanese have already approached the British in- 
quiring whether the holding back of the Americans was 
antagonistic to Japan. They were assured that it was not. 
However, this indicates the necessity for caution and our 
press should be warned not to write inflammatory articles. 

NEW YORK, March 3, 1918 

Senator Root has just left. He agrees with you and with 
me as to the danger of the proposed Japanese intervention in 
Siberia. He thinks that even if Japan should announce her 
purpose to retire when the war was over, or at the mandate 
of the peace conference, the racial dislike which the Russians 
have for the Japanese would throw Russia into the arms of 

The Russian Ambassador, whom I saw yesterday, is of a 
like opinion. 

We are treading upon exceedingly delicate and dangerous 
ground, and are likely to lose that fine moral position you 
have given the Entente cause. The whole structure which 


you have built up so carefully may be destroyed over night, 
and our position will be no better than that of the Germans. 
I cannot understand the . . . determination of the British 
and French to urge the Japanese to take such a step. Leav- 
ing out the loss of moral advantage, it is doubtful whether 
there will be any material gain. . . . 

Affectionately yours 


Colonel House to Mr. A. J. Balfour 


NEW YORK, March 4, 1918 

I have told the President that I am cabling you because I 
feel that the proposed Japanese action in Siberia may be the 
greatest misfortune that has yet befallen the Allies. This is 
said with the kindliest feelings for Japan and no desire to 
question her position in Far-Eastern affairs. The United 
States wishes in every way to assist, and in no way to ob- 
struct, this scheme, but it would be entirely unfair not to 
warn you of the dangers of the plan so far as public opinion 
in the United States is concerned. 

Since the proposals have been made semi-public, I have 
sounded various shades of opinion here, and find them al- 
most unanimous in their verdict; even so conservative a 
statesman as Root considers it would be a grave mistake. 
However altruistic the intentions of the Japanese may really 
be, they will be misrepresented by German propaganda 
everywhere. They will endeavor to show that the Allies, 
through the Japanese, are doing in Siberia exactly what the 
Germans are doing in the West ; that the Siberian case is even 
worse because the Japanese have not been invited to come by 
any Russian body; that Japanese territory is not threatened 
as the Germans and Austrians claim theirs to be. The race 
question, in particular, will be sharply emphasized and an 
attempt made to show that we are using a yellow race to 


destroy a white one. This may result in the American press 
and public opinion getting out of hand, and adopting an at- 
titude which will be resented in Japan and cause serious fric- 
tion between the two peoples. 

I feel this action will mean a serious lowering, if not actual 
loss, of our moral position in the eyes of our own peoples and 
of the whole world, and a dulling of the high enthusiasm of 
the American people for a righteous cause. Unless we main- 
tain our moral position we must expect a very formidable 
anti-war party here, a general weakening of the war effort, 
and a breaking-up of that practically unanimous support 
upon which the Administration can now count. 

The President has agreed to send a note to the Japanese 
Government associating himself with the Notes of the Allies, 1 
but he would still like you to consider whether something 
cannot be done which will prevent part at any rate of the 
misrepresentations of the German propaganda from bearing 

It will probably be suggested to the Allied Ambassadors 
that the Japanese Government, when they receive their 
mandate, should be requested to make a public announce- 
ment to the effect that they are sending an armed force into 
Siberia only as an ally of Russia, and for the purpose of 
saving Siberia from the invasion and intrigues of Germany; 
that they will be willing to leave the settlement of all Si- 
berian questions to the council of peace. 


Following the receipt of House's memorandum and letter, 
President Wilson decided to withdraw the first memorandum 
and constructed another. In the original note, while declin- 
ing to associate himself formally with the Allied request for 

1 The President's first note did not formally associate the United States 
Government with the notes of the Allies; it merely stated that the Gov- 
ernment had no objection to the request being made of Japan. 


Japanese intervention, he expressed confidence in the mo- 
tives that lay behind such intervention. In the note finally 
sent, however, he laid primary stress on the unwisdom of any 
intervention. Colonel House commented as follows in his 

'March 5, 1918: The President called for Polk this morn- 
ing and handed him a new note to Japan which was to be 
substituted for the one written the other day and later held 
up. I agree with what the President says in this last note. 
. . . Polk and I had a long argument over the telephone about 
the matter after he had seen the President. However un- 
fortunate it may be that the State Department had given 
the substance of the first note to the Japanese and Allied 
Ambassadors, nevertheless I believe the President was wise 
in changing it and substituting the note written yester- 
day/ 1 ... 


President Wilson's objections to Japanese intervention in 
Siberia did not alter the opinion of Allied leaders in Europe 
that it was both desirable and necessary. When on March 
4 the Bolsheviks, under German military pressure, signed 
the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, it became apparent that Bol- 
shevik resistance to Germany was at an end. The Allies 
therefore pressed again for American approval of the Japa- 
nese expedition, emphasizing the plea that the Japanese 
would appear in Siberia not as invaders, but as represent- 
atives of the Allied armies helping Russia to throw off Ger- 
man domination. 

1 This second note is printed in the appendix to this chapter. 




Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, March 6, 1918 

I am grateful for your telegram of the 4th March, and 
much appreciate the frank exposition of your views which it 

Up to the moment when the Bolshevik Government 
decided to accept the German peace terms, I was opposed to 
Japanese intervention, as I hoped Bolshevik resistance to 
German aggression might continue. 

When the Bolsheviki surrendered unconditionally, it be- 
came of the utmost importance to prevent the rich sup- 
plies in Siberia from falling into German hands, and the only 
method by which this could be secured was by Japanese 
intervention on a considerable scale. Information reached 
us that Japanese Government were making preparations to 
take action in Eastern Siberia, while, owing to the public 
discussion of the question, it seemed likely that considerable 
resentment would be aroused in Japan if, the Japanese 
Government being willing to act on behalf of the Allies, a 
mandate were refused. The formidable pro-German party in 
Japan would have asserted that such a refusal was due to 
mistrust, and I fear that, however erroneous in fact, this 
sentiment would have predominated in Japanese opinion. 

I need hardly emphasize the advantage to be gained by 
substituting for Japanese action alone and in her own inter- 
ests, action as mandatory of the Allied Powers. I am in full 
agreement with the proposals made in the last paragraph of 
your telegram; I sent to our Ambassador in duplicate on 
March 4th a telegram following these lines. This telegram 
was repeated to Lord Reading and I am telling him to send a 
copy to Sir William Wiseman immediately for your informa- 

Although reports have reached us that enemy prisoners 


in Siberia are being armed under Bolshevik instructions, yet 
the Bolshevik Government assert that they still intend to 
organize resistance to German aggression in spite of having 
signed a peace treaty. I have therefore telegraphed our 
agent to suggest to the Bolshevik Government that they 
should invite Japanese and Rumanian cooperation for this 
purpose. I fear, however, that there is little chance of the 
proposal being entertained, nor do I know how the Japa- 
nese and Rumanian Governments would regard such an 

I have done this so that we can put ourselves right with 
public opinion, if and when a statement is made on the whole 

I hope and believe that the action which has been taken, 
and which will, I feel sure, meet with the President's ap- 
proval, will enable us to justify completely the intervention 
which we are asking Japan to undertake. 

It will show that the Allies have been actuated by no sel- 
fish or mean motives, and if Japan consents to undertake the 
obligation on such terms, might not it contribute to allay 
the suspicion which exists in many quarters both here and 
in the United States? 


Colonel House remained firm in his impression that the 
landing of Japanese troops in Siberia would accomplish, as 
nothing else could, the complete antagonism of the Bol- 
sheviks against the Entente and would throw them into the 
arms of Germany. The Treaty of Brest-Utovsk had yet to 
be ratified by the Soviet Congress, which was even then 
about to assemble at Moscow. A message of friendship to 
the Soviets and a promise of aid might help to induce the 
Congress to refuse ratification. 


Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, March 10, 1918 

What would you think of sending a reassuring message to 
Russia when the Soviet meets at Moscow on the 12th? 

Our proverbial friendship for Russia could be reaffirmed 
and you could declare our purpose to help in her efforts to 
weld herself into a democracy. She should be left free from 
any sinister or selfish influence which might interfere with 
such development. 

My thought is not so much about Russia as it is to seize 
this opportunity to clear up the Far-Eastern situation but 
without mentioning it or Japan in any way. What you 
would say about Russia and against Germany could be made 
to apply to Japan or any other power seeking to do what we 
know Germany is attempting. 

Affectionately yours 


Such a message might prove especially timely, inasmuch 
as Trotsky, probably in all sincerity but perhaps without the 
full approval of Lenin, laid before Raymond Robins, then 
Chief of the American Red Cross in Russia, a proposal in- 
timating his willingness to prevent the ratification of the 
Brest-Litovsk Treaty. Trotsky asked if the Treaty were 
not ratified or if the Soviet renewed hostilities, whether the 
Bolsheviks could count on Allied aid, what sort it would be; 
and, if Japan should threaten to intervene in Siberia, what 
steps would be taken by the Allies and the United States to 
prevent a landing. 

To this proposal, which was cabled to London by the 
British Commissioner, Lockhart, with a recommendation 
that a cordial reply be sent, the British Government made 
no immediate response. President Wilson's message dated 
March 11, in line with House's letter of March 10, did not 


affect the situation. 1 He expressed sympathy with Russia 
at the moment when 'the German power has been thrust in 
to interrupt and turn back the whole struggle for freedom. 9 
But he confessed that the United States was not 'now in a 
position to render the direct and effective aid it would wish 
to render.' On March 16 the Congress of Soviets ratified 
the Treaty of Brest-Utovsk. At the same time it passed a 
resolution in response to Wilson's message, conceived in 
anything but a friendly spirit, and expressing the belief that 
"the happy time is not far distant when the laboring masses 
of all countries will throw off the yoke of capitalism.' 
Zinoviev is said to have boasted: 'We slapped the President 
of the United States in the face.' 2 

The surrender of the Bolsheviks to Germany convinced 
the French that the plan of Japanese intervention should be 
pushed through, and at the meeting of the Supreme War 
Council at London, on March 16, both Clemenceau and 
Pichon argued strongly that a joint note should be sent 
President Wilson asking for American cooperation. Mr. 
Balfour, who was in close touch with the American situation 
and point of view and always preserved an open mind on the 
domestic situation in Russia, admitted that the advices 
which his Government had received from Russia were 
against intervention. Lockhart, who was intimate with 
Trotsky at this time, had reported that a Japanese expedi- 
tion would throw all of Russia into the hands of Germany; 
he insisted that Trotsky really wanted a working arrange- 
ment with the Allies, and both Balfour and Lloyd George 
advocated delay in the announcement of Japanese interven- 
tion, perhaps in the hope that an invitation for Japanese 
help might ultimately come from the Bolsheviks themselves. 
But the French and Italians demanded immediate action, 

1 See appendix to this chapter for Wilson's Message and the Soviet re- 
* Francis, Russia from the American Embassy, 230. 


and it was agreed that a new appeal should be sent to Wilson. 
On March 18 Colonel House, who was ill in New York, noted 
in his diary: 

'Lord Reading has received a cable from his Government 
urging him to again press the Japanese intervention plan. 
I sent a message to the President through Gordon, saying 
I had not changed my opinion in that matter. I asked Wise- 
man, after reading Reading's interview with the President, 
what the President had told him. He replied that the Presi- 
dent said, " I have not changed my mind."' 

Colonel House to Mr. A. J. Balfour 


NEW YORK, March 29, 1918 

I have discussed the matter with the President and he 
hopes that nothing will be done for the moment because the 
situation is so uncertain. 

There seems no need for immediate action and the situ- 
ation might possibly clear itself a little later so we would 
know better what to do. 


As among France, Great Britain, and the United States, 
there were thus three opinions as to the course to pursue. 
The French, distrustful of the Bolsheviks to the point of 
clear-cut hostility, advocated Japanese intervention without 
delay. The British recognized the advantages of inter- 
vention as rather outweighing its disadvantages, but were 
willing to work with Trotsky if it were feasible, and hoped 
that perhaps ultimately the Bolsheviks through Lockhart 
might ask for intervention. The United States Government 
believed that intervention, unless definitely demanded by 
the Bolsheviks, would prove useless and perhaps disastrous. 


The British and American points of view were not far sepa- 
rated; ultimately a plan was evolved and agreement reached. 


The compromise which the British Foreign Office sug- 
gested was to substitute for Japanese intervention an inter- 
allied expedition, in which the United States should play a 
prominent part. The objections of the Bolsheviks to inter- 
vention in Siberia had arisen in part from anti-Japanese 
feeling. They feared that it meant permanent Japanese 
control of eastern Siberia, a fear which was intensified by 
racial prejudice. They had raised no serious difficulties 
following the Allied expedition to Murmansk, and it was 
possible that they might even ask for intervention in the 
East if it were given an interallied character. On March 26 
Wiseman received a telegram from the Foreign Office, in- 
structing him to consult Colonel House confidentially as to 
whether such a suggestion would cause embarrassment at 
Washington. If not, the Allies would again take up with 
Tokyo the question of an interallied expedition, for which the 
Japanese had earlier expressed some distaste. 

House agreed that many of the disadvantages of inter- 
vention would disappear if it could be put upon an interallied 
basis; they might all disappear if an invitation could be 
secured from Trotsky, for which Lockhart was working and 
for which, Balfour intimated in a telegram of April 3, 
Robins also should be instructed to work. At House's 
suggestion Wiseman was sent to England to explain the 
Washington point of view and bring back to Reading his 
impressions of the European situation. In the mean time the 
plan of interallied intervention was developed. 

'The [British] Ambassador,' wrote House on April 24, 
'had an extensive budget to go through with me. The most 
pressing matter was Russia. His Government believe that 


it is possible now to get Trotsky and his associates to agree 
to an understanding by which the Allies could send a force 
into Russia and compel Germany to re-form an army on the 
Eastern Front. He seemed gratified to learn that I thor- 
oughly endorsed the plan which Mr. Balfour outlined in a 
very long cable/ 

It was all the more difficult for Wilson to hold to his re- 
fusal to consider intervention in Russia, because of the mili- 
tary situation in France. Since March 21 the victorious 
German offensive had been proceeding, and it was of the 
first importance that no more reinforcements should reach 
the Western Front. Furthermore, there was no hope of 
completely defeating Germany, even if the Allies held firm 
in France, so long as she was able to exploit Russia through 
the terms of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. All this Lord Read- 
ing laid before House, together with Mr. Balfour's recom- 
mendations to the effect that an Allied front be reestablished 
in Russia, through an interallied military expedition. 
Extended comments were added in a cablegram from 
Wiseman. 1 

House's Notes of British Statement on Russia 

'The British War Cabinet have now further considered 
the general military problem before the Allies, and have 
reached the conclusion that it is essential to treat Europe 
and Asia, for the purposes of strategy, though not of com- 
mand, as a single front. The transfer of German divisions 
from East to West is still continuing and, under present 
conditions, can be further continued, and it is imperative 
to stop this movement if it can possibly be done. 

'Germany can now draw food and raw materials from 
Asia, and in these conditions, even if our defensive is success- 
ful, there is little chance that we could make a successful 

1 See appendix to this chapter. 


offensive. In the present state of affairs we cannot hope for 
a favorable change in internal conditions in Germany and 
for this reason also it is important that pressure should be 
brought on the Central Powers from the East. 

'It must further be remembered that Germany is now 
trying to sow disorder throughout the East, and that Ger- 
man agents are already attempting to cause trouble in 
Afghanistan, Persia and Turkestan. This movement will 
have important effects unless it can be checked. 

' It thus becomes of the greatest urgency to reestablish an 
Allied front in Russia, and the only hope of doing this 
appears to be by producing a national revival of Russia, 
such as that which was seen in the time of Napoleon. 1 
Russia has an immense supply of soldiers trained to arms, 
and with experience of modern warfare, including capable 
generals, and if the necessary spirit could be aroused, an 
effective army could in a short time be produced, and sup- 
plied from the stores now at Russian ports. The Germans 
would then be compelled either to withdraw or strengthen 
their forces in Russia. 

'The British Government considers that it is necessary for 
the Allies to unite in order to bring about a Russian national 
revival, and in order to adopt a policy of freeing Russia 
from foreign control by means of Allied intervention. The 
Allies must, of course, avoid taking sides in Russian politics, 
and, if the Bolshevist Government will cooperate in resisting 
Germany, it seems necessary to act with them as the de 
facto Russian Government. Trotsky, at least, has for some 
time shown signs of recognizing that cooperation with the 
Allies is the only hope of freeing Russia from the Germans, 
and, whatever his motives, he has taken steps against anti- 
Ally newspapers and has asked for cooperation at Mur- 
mansk, and on other matters. He has now definitely asked 

1 The suggestion of a national revival indicates the limited extent of 
Allied knowledge of actual conditions in Russia at this time. 


for a statement of the help which the Allies could give, and 
of the guarantee which they would furnish, and says that 
he considers an agreement desirable if the conditions are 
satisfactory. The British Government are of opinion that 
the Allies should avail themselves of this opportunity to 
offer Allied intervention against Germany, accompanied by 
a suitable declaration of disinterestedness and by proper 
guarantees as to the evacuation of Russian territory. If 
such an offer was accepted the whole position might be 
transformed, and if it was refused, the position of the 
Bolshevist Government would at least be defined. 

* Japan would clearly have to furnish the greater part of 
any considerable military force which might be used, but it 
is desirable that all the Allies should participate. 

'The intervention of Japan alone clearly might throw a 
large proportion of the Russian population onto the side of 
Germany, and we can therefore only offer an intervention 
by all the Allies, Japan providing the greatest military 
strength. The British Government would be ready to make 
a naval demonstration at Murmansk and elsewhere, which 
would provide rallying-points for anti-German forces and 
hold the ports as bases. The British could also give assistance 
to the Russian forces in trans-Caucasia if communication 
through Persia can be established, which will depend 
largely on the cooperation of the Bolshevists in that region. 
The important step to be taken would, however, be an 
advance through Siberia by a force predominantly Japa- 
nese and American. The Allied character of this force 
would have to be furnished mainly from the United States, 
though British and probably also French and Italian detach- 
ments could accompany it. The American contingent might 
be composed mainly of technical corps, especially mechani- 
cal transports, signal units, railway troops, and medical 
units, and also one complete division. This force would 
probably have little or no fighting for some time after land* 


ing, and the American division, if sent, could finish training 
in Siberia. A great quantity of war material now at the 
ports would be made available for refitting the Russian 

'The British War Cabinet are anxious to learn whether 
the President would be disposed to agree to the following 
course of action: 

' 1. Great Britain and the United States to make a simul- 
taneous proposal to the Bolshevist Government for inter- 
vention by the Allies on the lines indicated, an understanding 
to be given for the withdrawal of all Allied forces at the 
conclusion of hostilities. 

'2. An American force, composed as described above, to 
be sent to the Far East. 

'If this general policy is acceptable, the question of ap- 
proaching the Japanese Government remains. Japan would 
under this scheme intervene in Siberia as part of a joint 
intervention by the Allies. The proposed declaration might 
not be very welcome to her, and it would probably be neces- 
sary for her to use her troops, in conjunction with Russian 
and Allied forces, in European Russia as well as in Asia. 
The British Government consider that Japan should, in 
return, have the military command of the expedition, though 
a Mission from each Allied country, including a strong 
propaganda detachment, would be attached. It also seems 
desirable that the proposal should be made to the Japa- 
nese at an early date and pressed on the ground that the 
proposed course of action is necessary for a victory of the 
Allied cause 

'The suggested plan is one of urgent importance. The 
proposals outlined above are in no way intended as an 
alternative to sending American infantry to Europe, the 
need for which is constantly increasing. The problem of 
Russia is one of pressing urgency and in the present situ- 
ation it is essential to bring pressure against Germany in the 


East, without delay. If this cannot be done, it is difficult to 
see how the blockade can be made effective or how peace is 
to be reached through a conclusive defeat of the enemy's 

* Before consulting the other Allied powers the British 
Government think the most important step is to ascertain 
whether the President concurs in these proposals, for without 
his concurrence the British Government would not care to 
proceed further with them.' 

Such recommendations were reenforced by personal 
visits of numerous foreigners who came to press the Allied 
point of view upon President Wilson and who almost al- 
ways stopped first at Magnolia for a conference with House. 
Their arguments were generally the same: that only by re- 
creating a fighting front in the East could the German 
pressure in the West be diminished. They also asked for aid 
to the Czecho-Slovak divisions who were struggling across 
Asia, at times in conflict with irresponsible Russians, Hun- 
garians, and Germans, at times with Bolsheviks. Their 
valorous anabasis won the admiration of the Allied world, 
and the demand was general that steps be taken to prevent 
their extermination. 

On June 11, M. Marcel Delaney, French Ambassador 
to Japan, called on House. 'We discussed Japanese and 
Allied intervention in Russia and Siberia in its every phase.' 
M. Delaney carried a personal message from Clemenceau to 
Wilson, to the effect that the French Prime Minister 'con- 
siders intervention imperative not only because he believes 
it will be effective but because he believes it will stimulate 
the morale of the French people more than anything else, 
and that they need stimulating in this hour of trial. He 
[Delaney] declared the situation to be critical. The Germans 
are within forty miles of Paris in two different directions 
along two valley routes. The nearer they get to Paris, the 


more air raids are possible and the harder it is to maintain 
the morale of the people/ 

The next day Thomas G. Masaryk, President of the 
Czecho-Slovak Committee and later first President of the 
Czecho-Slovak Republic, took lunch with House to discuss 
Russia. * Masaryk talked with more sense than most people 
with whom I have discussed the subject, and he knows 
Russia better/ A few days later it was Henri Bergson who 
stopped on his way to Washington to present the case for 
intervention to the President. Shortly afterwards House 
heard the other side from Louis Edgar Brown of the Chicago 
News, who had just returned from Petrograd. 'He takes an 
entirely different viewpoint of the Russian situation and of 
intervention from that of my recent visitors. He believes 
in both Lenin and Trotsky and thinks the Soviet Govern- 
ment will maintain itself. He considers the worst thing we 
can do is to intervene in any way, particularly in cooperation 
with Japanese troops. He thinks if we do this Russia will 
ask Germany to help her organize the Russian army to repel 
the invasion. It is difficult to come to a satisfactory judg- 
ment when one hears such conflicting views from intelligent 
men and those who have been on the ground for a long time. 
Brown has been in Russia for a year or more and comes hot- 
foot from there, having left Petrograd within the month/ 

House was convinced that it was no longer possible simply 
to return a blank negative to Allied demands for interven- 
tion, and he pondered methods by which an Allied force 
could be introduced into Russia without arousing suspicion 
of imperialistic motives. After long discussions he decided 
that the only possible solution of the problem was the cre- 
ation of an economic relief commission, which more than any 
other would win the welcome of the Russians themselves. 1 

1 Colonel Raymond Robins, who returned to the United States in May, 
advocated an economic commission and had elaborated with the Soviet 
leaders a scheme for the development of commercial relations. 


It was possible that by thus subordinating the military 
aspects of intervention the confidence of the Russians might 
be secured. House was the more inclined to this plan because 
of the possibility of persuading Hoover to take charge of its 
execution. On June 13 he wrote in his diary: 

* Gordon telephoned last night suggesting that Hoover 
head a "Russian Relief Commission" as part of an interven- 
tion plan. The idea appealed to me strongly at once. This 
morning ... we decided that he should go to Hoover and ask 
whether he would be willing to serve in that capacity 

' Hoover told Gordon he was willing to serve wherever 
the President thought he could do so best. He was enthusi- 
astic over the suggestion and thought it the best solution 
of the Russian problem. We then mentioned the plan to 
Lansing, who greeted it with enthusiasm. . . . 

'Sir William is in favor of the plan and we agreed that he 
should intercept Reading at Princeton, where he goes to- 
morrow for a degree, tell him the story, and get him to 
cooperate with us in putting it through/ 

Colonel House to the President 

June 13, 1918 


... I hope you will think well of the plan The Rus- 
sians know Hoover and Hoover knows the East. If he heads 
'The Russian Relief Commission' it will typify in the Rus- 
sian mind what was done in Belgium, and I doubt whether 
any Government in Russia, friendly or unfriendly, would 
dare oppose his coming in 

Hoover has ability as an organizer, his name will cany 
weight in the direction desired, and his appointment will, for 
the moment, settle the Russian question as far as it can be 
settled by you at present. 


Some one has been here almost every day since I arrived, 
to talk about this vexatious problem and to try and get me to 
transmit their views to you. I have not done so because no 
good way out was presented. This plan, however, seems 
workable and I sincerely hope it will appeal to your judg- 

Affectionately yours 


Four days later Mr. Hoover came from Washington to 
Magnolia to discuss the prospect of his being sent to Russia 
as the chief of the Russian Relief Commission. House's 
conviction of the necessity of taking some action of this kind 
was further intensified by a visit from the British Ambassa- 
dor. Lord Reading laid before him the contents of a new 
cable from England analyzing the military situation. 
Colonel House's notes of the substance of the cable were as 

'1. Unless Allied intervention is undertaken in Siberia 
forthwith we have no chance of being ultimately victorious, 
and shall incur serious risk of defeat in the mean time. 

*2. By the first of June, 1919, the exhaustion of British 
and French reserves of man-power will have necessitated a 
very serious reduction in the number of divisions that they 
can maintain in the field. The growth of the American army, 
even under the most favorable circumstances, will not suf- 
fice to equip, train, and place in the line enough divisions to 
restore the original balance in our favor. Thus the Ger- 
mans, reckoning on a similar scale of battle casualties for 
them as for the Allies, will in the first half of 1919 still have 
a formidable army on the Western Front even without 
withdrawing any further divisions from the East. 

'3. But if the Central Powers are not threatened by any 
military force in the East they will by that time be in a posi- 


tion to withdraw from there many more divisions, still 
further increasing their superiority. In view of the unfavor- 
able strategic situation of the Allied armies in France it is 
possible that the Germans might with this superiority obtain 
a decision in their favor in the West. 

'4. On the other hand, if intervention is started now it is 
estimated that by the spring of 1919 a sufficient Allied force 
could be deployed west of the Urals to rally to the Allied 
cause all those Russian elements which are in favor of law 
and order, good government and economical development, 
and which would render possible the reconstitution of 
democratic Russia as a military power. 

'5. The greater part of this force must for the time being 
be Japanese, as it would be strategically unsound to divert 
forces that can be used in the Western theater, except such 
small detachments of the other Allied Powers as are neces- 
sary to give the operation an international character. 

'In this manner, too, German troops would be held by an 
Allied force which would not otherwise be employed. Ulti- 
mately there may be a surplus of American troops over and 
above what can be maintained in France, and this should be 
used in support or in substitution of the Japanese. 

*6. The immediate effect of this force would be, first, to 
prevent the withdrawal of any further German troops from 
the East; second, to oblige them to withdraw divisions from 
the Western Front and thus give the Allies a real chance of 
obtaining a military success in the West even in 1919. 

'7. Finally, it is not considered that any military success 
which it is within the power of the Allies to obtain on the 
Western Front can be decisive enough to force the Central 
Powers to tear up the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, or to prevent 
Russia and most of Asia from becoming a German colony. 
The immense spaces at the enemy's disposal for maneuver in 
the West and his superior communications would enable him 
to fight for an unlimited time without a decision being 


obtained. Even if driven completely out of France, Belgium, 
and Italy, the Central Powers would be still unbeaten. 
Unless therefore Russia can reconstitute herself as a military 
power in the East against the time when the Allied armies 
are withdrawn, nothing can prevent the complete absorption 
of her resources by the Central Powers, which would imply 
world domination by Germany; the only means by which 
the resurrection of Russia can be brought about is by imme- 
diate Allied military intervention in that theater. 

'8. To sum up: 

'No military decision in the Allies' favor can ever be 
expected as the result of operations on the Western Front 
alone; nor will such a measure of equality as may be looked 
for in that theater in any way secure the objects for which 
the Allies are fighting, unless combined with the maximum 
military effort that can be made in the East. 

'9. The matter is urgent not merely politically, but also 
because it is necessary to take advantage of the summer, 
which is rapidly passing away, and because the agricultural 
districts should be secured before the harvest is gathered 


Colonel House to the President 

June 21, 1918 


Lord Reading, who has been in Cambridge getting a 
degree, has spent the better part of the day with me. While 
here he received a cable from Balfour about Russian inter- 
vention. I suggested that he send you a copy for your in- 
formation before he sees you, which he hopes to do on 
Monday. . . . 

Neither Reading nor I agree to the statement that a deci- 
sion is not possible on the Western Front. . . . The mem- 
orandum attached and which was drawn up by their repre- 


sentative in Russia, together with the French Ambassador 
there, is worthy of notice. 

I believe something must be done immediately about 
Russia, otherwise it will become the prey of Germany. It 
has become now a question of days rather than months. 
I have this to suggest and recommend: 

Make an address to Congress setting forth the food situa- 
tion in this country; telling of the speeding-up of our food 
products in one year's time to a point where after August it 
will not be necessary for the Allies to continue on rations 
except as to beef and sugar. This statement in itself will 
enormously stimulate the morale in France, England, and 
Italy, and correspondingly depress that of the Central 

Hoover has planned to make this statement himself in 
London around the middle of July. . . . 

Then set forth your plan for sending a 'Russian Relief 
Commission' headed by Hoover with the purpose of helping 
Russia speed up her food production by the same methods 
we have used. While this is being done the Commission to 
be instructed to coordinate all such relief organizations as 
the Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., etc., etc., and supply the Russian 
people with agricultural implements necessary to make their 
potential arable lands as productive as ours and with a like 
beneficent result. 

To do this it would be necessary for the Relief Commis- 
sion and their assistants to have a safe and orderly field to 
work in and you have therefore asked the cooperation and 
assistance of England, France, Italy, and Japan, which they 
have generously promised, and they have also given the 
United States the assurance that they will not either now 
or in the future interfere with Russia's political affairs or 
encroach in any way upon her territorial integrity. 

This programme will place the Russian and Eastern situa- 
tion in your hands and will satisfy the Allies and perhaps 


reconcile the greater part of Russia towards this kind of 

Lord Reading is enthusiastic over this plan and I asked 
him to discuss it with you when you receive him. . . . 

Affectionately yours 


Lord Robert Cecil to Colonel House 


July 8, 1918 

You were good enough to tell me when you were over here 
last year that I might communicate with you, if there were 
anything which I thought you ought to know. May I ven- 
ture therefore to say this? 

I am convinced that there is growing up in this country a 
very strong feeling that Allied intervention in Siberia is 
being unduly delayed. So far public expression of opinion 
on the subject has been strongly discouraged by the Govern- 
ment. Till lately the newspapers have been warned not to 
discuss it, and even now they have been asked to treat it 
with great caution. Attempts to raise matter in Parliament 
have been prevented. But I am afraid that sooner or later 
feeling will become too strong to be repressed and a danger- 
ous explosion may follow which might produce very unwel- 
come results, possibly even giving rise to international 
criticism and recrimination. From one point of view these 
are matters with which you may rightly say you have no 
concern. But knowing how very much you have at heart 
the maintenance and increase of cordial friendship between 
our two countries, I thought you would forgive me if I let you 
know how the situation strikes one, part of whose business 
it is to watch public opinion and who has given very close 
personal attention to this particular question for the last 
six months. 



President Wilson, obviously against his inclination and 
judgment, was forced to consider how the plan of interven- 
tion could be carried through; he insisted that, since Russia 
refused to ask for intervention, it must not appear to injure 
the sovereign rights of Russia. I have been sweating blood, 
he wrote to House on July 8, over the question what is right 
and feasible to do in Russia. It goes to pieces like quicksilver 
under my touch, but I hope I see and can report some pro- 
gress presently along the double line of economic assistance 
and aid to the Czecho-Slovaks. 1 If House had been more 
persistent than usual in pressing for a decision, it was evident 
that the President did not resent it, for he wrote at the same 
time : I hail your letters with deep satisfaction and unspoken 
thanks go out to you for each one of them, whether I write or 
not, and the most affectionate appreciation for all that you 
do for me. 

President Wilson was evidently fearful lest once the Jap- 
anese forces found themselves in Siberia, it would be difficult 
to persuade them to leave. Their military leaders were not 
likely to see much value in intervention unless it was to 
result in Japanese control in Eastern Siberia, to which 
Wilson was steadily opposed. The President sought in every 
way to limit the size of the Japanese army and to lay down 
conditions of withdrawal. House noted in his diary on 
July 25 that Wilson was * fretted with the Japanese attitude/ 

'The difficulty I think,' added House, 'is that there are 
two parties in Japan. The civil Government wishes to 
cooperate with us and sees the necessity for it. The military 
clique see nothing in such intervention for Japan. They 
have not the vision to know that in the end it would be 
better for the Japanese to do the altruistic thing. It is the 

1 Wilson to House, July 8, 1918. 


old story one meets everywhere and the one met since the 
beginning of the world : " What is there in it for me? " I hope 
before the war is over we can drive it into the consciousness 
of individuals as well as nations that from a purely selfish 
viewpoint, it is better to take the big, broad outlook that 
what is best for all is best for one/ 

At the end of July President Wilson reached an agreement 
with the Japanese, which resulted in the landing at Vladi- 
vostok of a small American force and ultimately of a Japa- 
nese army of some size. The purpose of the expedition was 
publicly defined with meticulous care by the State Depart- 
ment in a declaration to which the Japanese Government 
gave full adherence. 1 

Declaration of Department of State 

August 3, 1918 

* ... Military action is admissible in Russia now only to 
render such protection and help as is possible to the Czecho- 
slovaks against the armed Austrian and German prisoners 
who are attacking them, and to steady any efforts at self- 
government or self-defense in which the Russians themselves 
may be willing to accept assistance. . . . 

'The Government of the United States wishes to announce 
to the people of Russia in the most public and solemn man- 
ner that it contemplates no interference with the political 
sovereignty of Russia, no intervention in her internal 
affairs not even in the local affairs of the limited areas 
which her military force may be obliged to occupy and no 

1 The expedition to Siberia led to misunderstanding and difficulties. 
The Americans understood that each nation would send in 7000 troops, 
and were surprised to learn that the Japanese forces considerably ex- 
ceeded that number. It developed that the Japanese contended that the 
Americans had violated the agreement by sending 2000 noncombatants 
in addition to the 7000 combatant troops. The exact number of Japanese 
troops despatched was not known, but they were estimated by American 
officials at more than 60,000. 


impairment of her territorial integrity, either now or here- 
after, but that what we are about to do has as its single and 
only object the rendering of such aid as shall be acceptable 
to the Russian people themselves in their endeavors to regain 
control of their own affairs, their own territory, and their 
own destiny. The Japanese Government, it is understood, 
will issue a similar assurance.' 

Nothing was said or done at this time about the creation 
of an economic relief commission, which Colonel House had 
hoped would be emphasized and which, from his letter of 
July 8, President Wilson had seriously considered. On 
August 17, the President visited House on the North Shore. 
The Colonel recorded in his diary: 

* After lunch we had our usual conference for an hour or 
more. We discussed Russia and the economic mission. I was 
surprised to find that he did not have any one in mind to head 
this mission and asked for suggestions. He thought there 
was no haste, because he believed the military forces should 

go in before the economic I would have featured the 

economic part of it and sent in that section before the mili- 
tary, or at least have cooperated with it.' l 

Neither the hopes nor the fears that had been aroused by 
the long discussions regarding intervention in Siberia were 
fulfilled. It is true that the Bolshevik Government pro- 
tested bitterly against it, especially as Japan proceeded to 
increase the number of her expeditionary forces. But it is 
doubtful whether the hostility of the Bolsheviks to the 
Allies was rendered more intense thereby than it would have 
been in any case. Nor did the expedition throw Russia into 

1 The plan for Russian relief, as finally put into effect, was quite dif- 
ferent from the suggestions of House for a relief expedition in 1918. The 
history of the plan and its operation is found in H. H. Fisher, The Famine 
in Soviet Russia (Macmillan Company, 1927). 


the hands of Germany, as had been feared, since by autumn 
Germany had collapsed and the treaties of Brest-Litovsk 
were torn up. On the other hand, intervention, as finally 
carried through, did not affect the military situation in the 
West nor even strengthen the Allied position as against the 
Bolsheviks in the following year. 

Plans for an effective expeditionary force to Siberia and 
one capable of redressing the military balance in Europe 
would have required something like a miracle to assist them 
to success. The objections of the United States to a large 
and purely Japanese army in Siberia were inflexible, even if 
such an army could have been transported across the largest 
continent so as to reconstruct an Eastern Front against 
Germany. 1 In no other way could the purpose of interven- 
tion in Siberia have been carried through. It was a practical 
impossibility to send a large American army across the 
Pacific and far into Siberia, with only a single line of com- 
munication to Vladivostok. The shipping necessary to carry 
supplies for such a force was lacking. In the spring of 1918 
all available American troops and every American ship was 
demanded for the reenforcement of France. From first to 
last, the American military leaders protested against the 
Siberian * side-show/ 

It is easy to criticize the slowness, the hesitations, and the 
changes of mind that characterized the decisions taken 
regarding Allied policy in Siberia. It is more difficult to 
define a constructive policy which, under the conditions, 
might have proved of practical value. It must not be for- 
gotten that at the time when the Allied leaders had to meet 
the problems raised by the Bolshevik surrender to Germany, 
they were also confronted with the military crisis on the 
Western Front. It was there that the war would be won or 

1 In 1928 Colonel House wrote: 'The Japanese told me it would take 
their entire army to keep the Siberian Railway open.' 



President Wilson'? First Note to Allied Ambassadors Regarding Japanese 


[Written about February 28, 1918. Not circulated.] 
'The Government of the United States is made constantly aware at 
every turn of events that it is the desire of the people of the United States 
that, while cooperating with all its energies with its associates in the war 
in every direct enterprise of the war in which it is possible for it to take 
part, it should leave itself diplomatically free wherever it can do so with- 
out injustice to its associates. It is for this reason that the Government 
of the United States has not thought it wise to join the Governments of 
the Entente in asking the Japanese Government to act in Siberia. It has 
no objection to that request being made, and it wishes to assure the 
Japanese Government that it has the entire confidence that in putting 
an armed force into Siberia it is doing so as an ally of Russia, with no 
purpose but to save Siberia from the invasion of the armies and intrigues 
of Germany and with entire willingness to leave the determination of all 
questions that may affect the permanent fortunes of Siberia to the council 
of peace.' 

President Wilson's Second Note to Allied Ambassadors Regarding 
Japanese Expedition 

March 5, 1918 

'The Government of the United States has been giving the most careful 
and anxious consideration to the conditions now prevailing in Siberia 
and their possible remedy. It realizes the extreme danger of anarchy to 
which the Siberian provinces are exposed and imminent risk also of 
German invasion and domination. 

'It shares with the Governments of the Entente the view that if in- 
vasion is deemed wise, the Government of Japan is in the best situation 
to undertake it and could accomplish it most efficiently. It has moreover 
the utmost confidence in the Japanese Government and would be en- 
tirely willing, so far as its own feelings towards that government are con- 
cerned, to entrust the enterprise to it. But it is bound in frankness to say 
that the wisdom of invasion seems to it most questionable. If it were 
undertaken the Government of the United States assumes that the most 
explicit assurances would be given that it was undertaken by Japan as 
an ally of Russia in Russia's interest and with the sole view of holding it 
safe against Germany and at the absolute disposal of the final peace con- 
ference. Otherwise the Central Powers could and would make it appear 
that Japan was doing in the East exactly what Germany is doing in the 
West and was seeking to counter the condemnation which all the world 
must pronounce against Germany's invasion of Russia which she con- 
templates to justify on the pretext of restoring order. 

'And it is the judgment of the Government of the United States 
uttered with the utmost respect that even with such assurances given 
they could in the same way be discredited by those whose interest it 


was to discredit them; for hot resentment would be general in Russia 
itself, and that the whole action might play into the hands of the enemies 
of Russia and particularly of the enemies of the Russian revolution for 
which the Government of the United States entertains the greatest sym- 
pathy in spite of all the unhappiness and misfortunes which have for the 
time being sprung out of it. The Government of the United States begs 
once more to express to the Government of Japan its warmest friendship 
and confidence and once more begs it to accept its expressions of judg- 
ment as uttered only in the frankness of friendship/ 

President Wilson's Message to the Soviet Congress 

March 11, 1918 

'May I not take advantage of the meeting of the Congress of the 
Soviets to express the sincere sympathy which the people of the United 
States feel for the Russian people at this moment when the German 
power has been thrust in to interrupt and turn back the whole struggle 
for freedom and substitute the wishes of Germany for the purpose of the 
people of Russia. 

* Although the Government of the United States is, unhappily, not now 
in a position to render the direct and effective aid it would wish to render, 
I beg to assure the people of Russia through the congress that it will 
avail itself of every opportunity to secure for Russia once more complete 
sovereignty and independence in her own affairs, and full restoration to 
her great rdle in the life of Europe and the modern world. 

'The whole heart of the people of the United States is with the people 
of Russia in the attempt to free themselves forever from autocratic gov- 
ernment and become the masters of their own life.' 

Reply of the Congress of Soviets 

March 15, 1918 

'. . . The Russian Socialistic Federative Republic of Soviets takes ad- 
vantage of President Wilson's communication to express to all peoples 
perishing and suffering from the horrors of imperialistic war its warm 
sympathy and firm belief that the happy time is not far distant when the 
laboring masses of all countries will throw off the yoke of capitalism and 
will establish a socialistic state of society, which alone is capable of secur- 
ing just and lasting peace, as well as the culture and well-being of all 
laboring people. . . .' 

Sir William Wiseman to Colonel House 

LONDON, May 1, 1918 
There are four courses open to the Allies: 

1. To take no action, but await developments. This open to two very 
Strong objections. First, it enables the Germans to withdraw more 


troops and guns from the Russian front; secondly, it enables the Germans 
to organize Russia politically and economically for their own advantage 
and gives them undisputed access to grain, oil, and fat supplies in Siberia 
and valuable metal supplies in the Urals. Also it enables them to sustain 
Austrian morale by telling them that the war is over in the East and that 
they have only to help in the West to secure a complete German victory. 

2. Allied intervention at the invitation of Bolsheviki. This would 
probably be the most desirable course, the various Allied missions to come 
from Archangel and Southern Russia, giving the whole proposition the 
character of an Interallied movement rather than solely Japanese. From 
Vladivostok the main military force would come, consisting in the first 
place of about five Japanese divisions accompanied by Allied Missions 
and a few Allied troops, to be followed by a very much larger Japanese 
force. This would meet a Bolshevik force which they would help organize 
and could, it is thought, easily penetrate to Cheliabinsk as the first stage 
of operation. This would deny all Siberian resources to the Germans and 
threaten the re-creation of a formidable Eastern front. 

This programme, however, depends upon an invitation from Trotzky, 
and I begin to doubt whether this is feasible. If Trotzky invites Allied 
intervention the Germans would regard it as a hostile act and probably 
turn his Government out of Moscow and Petrograd. With this centre 
lost the best opinion considers that the whole Bolshevik influence in 
Russia would collapse. No one knows this better than Trotzky and for 
this reason he probably hesitates. The only chance would be if Trotzky 
would be prepared to abandon Moscow and retire along the Siberian 
Railway to meet the Allied force, calling upon all loyal Russians to rally 
to him and save the revolution from German reactionary intrigues. 

3. If we decide Trotzky will not or cannot invite us, we might find 
Kerenski and other members of the original republican revolution and 
get them to form a Government Committee in Manchuria and do what 
Trotzky will not do. Many think that this would be the signal for the 
rising of all elements that are best in Russia. 1 It would have the advan- 
tage that Kerenski's is the Government still recognized and we could deal 
with him through his Ambassadors in Washington and elsewhere. 

4. The only other scheme is for Allied intervention without the invita- 
tion of any party in Russia and possibly against the wishes of the Bol- 
sheviki. This is urged as a last resource by our military people and the 
French, but has of course its disadvantages. 

It is certain that nothing can be done without the whole-hearted co- 
operation of the President. I believe that the Japanese are influenced by 
two considerations: First, they are genuinely afraid of German domina- 
tion of Siberia, eventually threatening their position in the Far East. 
Also a strong party in Japan really want to do their part in helping the 

1 This opinion was by no means universal among American observers. 
Arthur Billiard cabled to House: 'There is a rumor that Kerenski is train- 
ing for the role of Venizelos. I hope not. The opposition to a man who 
has already disappointed great hopes is sure to be intense. A dark horse 
is better than a dead one.' 


Allies and see in the Japanese advance towards the Eastern Front an 
opportunity for the Japanese to play a glorious part in the World War. 
Far-seeing Japanese statesmen also foresee an opportunity of friendly 
cooperation with America, which might go far to solve the Japanese- 
American problem. Those who know them best maintain that anything 
they solemnly undertake before the whole world, they will strain their 
utmost to carry through. 


There is a great danger of the war being lost unless the numerical inferior- 
ity of the Allies can be remedied as rapidly as possible by the advent of 
American troops. 

Telegram of Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and Orlando, June 1, 1918 

ALL through the spring of 1918 the tide of success, both 
political and military, seemed to be setting towards the 
Central Powers. They had cleared up the Eastern Front, 
forced the surrender of Russia and Rumania, and estab- 
lished their control upon the border provinces. Austria- 
Hungary accepted German domination in a new military 
treaty, the essential clause of which provided for the employ- 
ment of troops 'according to one common principle, the 
initiative of which shall be left principally to Germany/ The 
Berlin and Vienna Governments, their prestige restored by 
success in the East, suppressed the elements of dissatisfaction 
at home and concentrated for the supreme effort in the West. 
To meet this impending attack the Entente Allies had 
need of diplomatic as well as military unity. Hitherto, as 
Colonel House had discovered during the Interallied Con- 
ference of the preceding autumn, there had been no real co- 
ordination of policy as regards the enemy. The Governments 
of France and Italy, and to a lesser extent that of Great 
Britain, had in their hearts felt some suspicion of President 
Wilson's plan of appealing to the German people against 
their Government. They found it difficult themselves to 
make any distinction, and feared lest an expression of friendly 
sentiments towards the German people might weaken the 
fighting morale of the Allies. Success would depend upon the 
creation of a real unity of purpose between the United States 


and the Entente. A telegram from Mr. Ackerman to Colonel 
House, early in March, emphasized its importance. 

Mr. Carl W. Ackerman to Colonel House 


BERNE, March 9, 1918 

Strong indications that Germany is centering diplomacy 
upon the crisis which she expects to follow coming offensive. 
In the past, the military party has succeeded by eliminating 
Entente nations after great battles, and fundamental policy 
has been to prevent Allied unity. Germany is now working 
through Hertling publicly, and some others privately, to 
cause dissension in England, France, Italy, or Belgium, hop- 
ing to make separate peace with one or more after coming 
campaign. Therefore our next political move should not only 
bridge the present crisis but lay firm foundation upon which 
all Allies can stand after offensive. 

Germany's fear is America's moral influence, not only with 
the Allies but inside Germany and Austria. Enemy's great 
hope is to undermine this influence, which Germany believes 
can best be accomplished by preventing Allied political unity. 
Therefore United States and Allies should be united politi- 
cally and diplomatically now, because of moral effect upon 
enemy peoples and because of necessity for unity in crisis 
following summer offensives. I believe political and moral 
offensive of Allies should be Allied, not only American as in 

I believe we should convince the Allies that this united 
moral influence is the only thing which German military 
offensive cannot destroy, therefore I reemphasize conclusion 
in my last telegram, that political and diplomatic affairs of 
United States and Allies be buttoned up. 


The desirable unity of purpose between the United States 


and the Allies was achieved at least temporarily through the 
change in Wilsonian policy which followed upon the German 
military and diplomatic successes of the spring. The change 
was one of emphasis rather than of principle. The essence of 
Wilson's speeches had been, 'War upon German imperial- 
ism, peace with the German liberals,' and hitherto he had laid 
chief stress upon the profit which the liberals would acquire 
by separating their fortunes from those of Ludendorf! and 
accepting the terms which he offered. But in March, 1918, 
it had become obviously futile to appeal in conciliatory tones 
to German Social Democrats, while Ludendorff, already suc- 
cessful in the East, could promise them, through victory in 
the West, even greater profits. The Allies must persuade 
them that Ludendorff was wrong, and the sole method of 
persuasion, at this juncture, was to defeat him on the field of 
battle. As Mr. Ackerman cabled to Colonel House from 
Berne: 'Our chief emphasis from to-day should be upon our 
determination. The more strength we and our Allies exhibit, 
the greater will be the reaction in Germany from the offensive 
and from lack of food and from political disagreements. If 
we appear weary or inclined to peace when Germany is worn 
out, there will be no reaction in Germany.' 

This was the sincere conviction of Allied leaders, and as 
soon as Wilson adopted such a tone he found himself in com- 
plete accord with them as with most students of German 
political psychology. His earlier statements of fair terms to 
a Germany ready to disavow Ludendorff and what he repre- 
sented, were not forgotten and were later to bear fruit. But 
in the spring of 1918 the soundest political strategy was to 
reiterate the impossibility of peace with the kind of Govern- 
ment that had imposed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. 

President Wilson apparently decided to adopt this strategy 
immediately after the signing of peace by the Russians. His 
decision was reenforced by the news of the German victories 
on the Western Front in March, It was the moment when 


the moral as well as the material assistance of America could 
be of importance. Colonel House was in Washington during 
the week that Wilson prepared a speech designed to show the 
Allies, as well as Germany, America's unyielding determina- 
tion to support the Allies and fight through to victory. 
House's diary refers briefly to the composition of the speech: 

' March 28, 1918: The main work we did to-night was to 
outline the speech he [Wilson] decided he should make soon. 
The opportunity will be given him when he reviews the Camp 
Meade troops at Baltimore on April 6, which is the anni- 
versary of our entrance into the war. It is also the occasion 
of opening the Third Liberty Loan. 

'April 9, 1918: He wrote something on his speech almost 
every night and we would then talk it over. He would come 
in with the speech in sections to discuss it. He made such 
eliminations as seemed advisable without argument. There 
were but few. He outlined the speech first in paragraphs and 
it was admirably done. Each paragraph was afterwards en- 
larged. He agreed that it should be short, and that it should 
leave the door open for peace and yet strike a note that the 
German military party would clearly understand. We both 
hoped that what he said about our meeting force with force 
would allay something of the panicky feeling in England and 
France. . . / 

Wilson's speech of April 6, despite its brevity, was the most 
effective indictment of the German military leaders made 
during the war. Their treatment of Russia proved con- 
clusively the hollowness of their professed desire to conclude 
a fair peace and to accord to the peoples with whose fortunes 
they were dealing the right to choose their own allegiance. 

'The real test of their justice and fair play has come,' said 
Wilson. 'From this we may judge the rest. . . . Their fair 


professions are forgotten. They nowhere set up justice, but 
everywhere impose their power and exploit everything for 
their own use and aggrandizement; and the peoples of 
conquered provinces are invited to be free under their do- 
minion. . . . 

'I do not wish, even in this moment of utter disillusion- 
ment, to judge harshly or unrighteously. I judge only what 
the German arms have accomplished with unpitying 
thoroughness throughout every fair region they have 

'What, then, are we to do? For myself, I am ready, ready 
still, ready even now, to discuss a fair and just and honest 
peace at any time that it is sincerely purposed a peace in 
which the strong and the weak shall fare alike. But the 
answer, when I proposed such a peace, came from the Ger- 
man commanders in Russia, and I cannot mistake the mean- 
ing of the answer. 

'I accept the challenge Germany has once more said 

that force, and force alone, shall decide whether Justice and 
Peace shall reign in the affairs of men, whether Right as 
America conceives it or Dominion as she conceives it shall 
determine the destinies of mankind. There is, therefore, but 
one response possible from us: Force, Force to the utmost, 
Force without stint or limit, the righteous and triumphant 
Force which shall make Right the law of the world, and cast 
every selfish dominion down in the dust/ 


There was unanimity between America and the Western 
Allies. They would oppose force with force, and once the 
American man-power were made available there could be no 
doubt of the outcome. In the mean time there was serious 
danger lest Germany with superior strength on the Western 
Front should use up Allied reserves, separate the French and 
British armies, and inflict upon each an overwhelming de- 


feat. It had become a race between Ludendorff and United 
States troops. 

The need of American man-power had been stressed at the 
Interallied Conferences in Paris, in November, 1917; at that 
time the military leaders of the Entente suggested to House 
that instead of waiting to form a complete and independent 
American army, General Pershing should permit his troops 
to be incorporated as individuals or by small units into the 
British and French armies. House had carried this plan 
back to Wilson, who discussed carefully with him the nature 
of the requests made by the Allies during the November 
Conferences. It was the President's desire to do everything 
in his power to meet Allied wishes; at the same time he never 
faltered in his determination that the commander of the 
American Expeditionary Force must have a free hand and 
must use his own military judgment. Following his discus- 
sions with House on military policy, the President arranged 
to send a cablegram of instructions, the first draft of which he 
left with House; it was substantially the same as that ulti- 
mately forwarded by the Secretary of War and illustrates 
Wilson's point of view very clearly. 

Draft Cablegram to Commander of A.E.F. 

WASHINGTON, December 18, 1917 

Both English and French are pressing upon the President 
their desire to have your forces amalgamated with theirs by 
regiments and companies and both express belief in impend- 
ing heavy drive by Germans somewhere along the line of the 
Western Front. We do not desire loss of identity of our 
forces, but regard that as secondary to the meeting of any 
critical situation by the most helpful use possible of the 
troops at your command. . . . The President, however, de- 
sires you to have full authority to use the forces at your 
command as you deem wise in consultation with the French 


and British Commanders-in-Chief . It is suggested for your 
consideration that possibly places might be selected for your 
forces nearer the junction of the British and French lines 
which would enable you to throw your strength in whichever 
direction seemed most necessary. This suggestion is not, 
however, pressed beyond whatever merit it has in your 
judgment, the President's sole purpose being to acquaint 
you with the representations made here and to authorize 
you to act with entire freedom in making the best disposi- 
tion and use of your forces possible to accomplish the main 
purpose in view. 

It is hoped that complete unity and coordination of action 
can be secured in this matter by your conferences with the 
French and British Commanders 

The difference in point of view between the French and 
British commanders and the American commander in France 
was fundamental. The former desired to use American 
troops as a reservoir, filling up their losses therefrom, and 
thus giving to the Americans actual experience on the battle- 
front in the midst of veterans, which they regarded as the 
speediest and most efficient training. Such a method would 
prevent the creation of an American army in France, but in 
the opinion of the Entente military leaders it was the method 
by which the United States could render the most and the 
earliest service. A report which Mr. Frazier sent to Colonel 
House of the meeting of the Supreme War Council on Janu- 
ary 30, at Versailles, left no doubt of their opinion. 

* General Foch, General Petain, General Haig,' wrote Mr. 
Frazier, ' agree that the American arms if taken as an autono- 
mous unit, could not be counted upon for effective aid during 
the present year, and that the only method of rendering them 
useful at the earliest possible moment would be by amal- 
gamating American regiments or battalions in French or 


British divisions. General P6tain was particularly out- 
spoken on this subject. The Italian Prime Minister stated 
that in his opinion the Council should request General 
Bliss to state whether the American Government would or 
would not be willing to accept this system of amalgama- 
tion. . . .' 

The Commander of the American Expeditionary Force, 
naturally, took a different attitude. He pointed out that the 
national sentiment of the United States was opposed to 
service under a foreign flag. The method proposed would 
also have unfortunate moral consequences in the United 
States, where it would provoke criticism of the Administra- 
tion and play into the hands of German propagandists, who 
would declare that American troops were being utilized by 
the Allies for their own purposes. More than that, the 
military enthusiasm of the American troops was obviously 
dependent to a large degree upon their serving under their 
own flag. 

Some three weeks previous, on January 8, Andr6 Tardieu 
had cabled very definitely to the French Government: 

* If your aim is really amalgamation, that is, the enlistment 
of the American army by small units on our front, you will 
fail. It is not only the American High Command which will 
oppose such a policy, but the Government, public opinion, 
and events. You could not get the English to consent to any 
such thing when their army was quite small; and you will not 
get the Americans to consent. If, on the contrary, you intend 
this only as a temporary measure, I believe that to complete 
their training we shall manage to obtain the incorporation of 
American divisions and brigades, perhaps even of regiments. 
During my stay in France, I had several talks on the subject 
with General Pershing, who, on this temporary basis, did 
not say No. But if we appear to ask more and try to dislo- 


cate the future American army, we shall get nothing, not 
even the foregoing/ l 

The compromise which Tardieu mentioned in this cable 
was suggested in principle to the Supreme War Council by 
the Americans, and was perforce accepted by the Entente. 
According to the agreement then reached, the infantry of six 
American divisions should be immediately transported to be 
brigaded with the British or French; the agreement stated 
explicitly that the principle of an independent American 
army was to be maintained. 

'The President desired to see Wiseman/ wrote House in 
his diary on February 3, 'in order to take up the question of 
using our troops in the French and British armies. Balfour 
has been sending cables freely about this matter and so has 
Pershing. Sir William's cable to Mr. Balfour, a copy of 
which is attached, will explain the President's position/ 

Sir William Wiseman to Mr. A. J. Balfour 


WASHINGTON, February 3, 1918 

I lunched to-day with the President and Secretary of War. 
The President asked me to send you a cable explaining his 
views regarding the disposal of American troops in France. 
The following is the substance of his arguments: 

In the first place the President is confident you will believe 
that he is actuated solely by what he considers the best policy 
for the common good. The President says American troops 
will be put into the line by battalions with the French or 
British if it should become absolutely necessary, but he 
wishes to place before you frankly the very grave objections 
he sees to this course. 

Apart from the serious danger of friction owing to different 

1 Printed in Tardieu, France and America, 219. 


methods, it is necessary that an American army should be 
created under American leaders and American flag in order 
that the people of America shall solidly and cheerfully sup- 
port the war. The placing of American troops in small bodies 
under foreign leaders would be taken as a proof that the 
recent criticism of the War Department was justified and 
that the American military machine had broken down. The 
American people would not, he fears, understand the military 
reasons and the necessary secrecy would prevent a very full 
explanation being given. 

Their resentment would be increased if an agreement was 
made between the American and British Governments for 
the disposal of American troops in this way before they left 
home. It would not have so bad an effect if Pershing, as 
American Commander-in-Chief, decided after the men ar- 
rived in France that it was necessary to place some of them 
at the disposal of the British in this way. The President 
therefore hopes you will provide transportation for the six 
American divisions at present under discussion without 
making a bargain and, if they are used to reenforce the 
British Line, that you will agree they are to be used by 
Pershing as he thinks best. 

At the same time the President repeats most earnestly that 
he will risk any adverse public criticism in order to win the 
war and he has told Pershing that he may put American 
troops by battalions in the British line or use them in any 
way which in his, Pershing's, judgment may be dictated by 

the necessities of the military situation 


Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, February 7, 1918 

Please express to the President my gratitude for the ex- 
position of his views regarding the disposal of American 


troops at the front. I appreciate highly the frankness of this 
communication and I have never for a moment doubted that 
he is actuated in this, as in all other questions, solely by con- 
sideration for the common good. 

Speaking for myself, I attach the greatest weight to his 
arguments. American soldiers must feel that they belong to 
an American army, fighting under the American flag. It is 
only on these terms that the best can be got out of them or 
that they can count on the enthusiastic support of the Ameri- 
can people. I know that these views were strongly pressed 
by General Pershing at Versailles, but I understand that 
proposals were made there which in his view would enable 
small American units to train, and, if need was considerable, 
to fight in the immediate future in companies with French 
and British troops without interfering with or delaying the 
creation of a great American army. If so, early and much- 
needed assistance would be given us on the Western Front 
without hindering the realization of legitimate American 

I hope I am right. I need hardly add that I am entirely at 
the President's disposal if anything I can do can help to make 
the position easier. 


The French and British military commanders were by no 
means satisfied with the compromise which the Americans 
offered, but they accepted it with every evidence of good 

Mr. A. H. Frazier to Colonel House 


PARIS, January 29, 1918 

During an interview between General Bliss and the Presi- 
dent, when I was present as interpreter, M. Poincar6 made 
the statement that General P6tain and General Pershing 


were in complete agreement. General Bliss thereupon asked 
whether he was authorized to telegraph this information to 
President Wilson. Before replying M. Poincar6 summoned 
an A.D.C., who telegraphed to Comptegne to ascertain 
whether there had been any change in the situation since the 
last interview between the French and American Command- 
ers-in-Chief. The reply came back from Comptegne by 
telephone that there had been no change and that the under- 
standing was complete and satisfactory. 



The most interesting development of the January meeting 
of the Supreme War Council was the plan for handling the 
general reserve; it crystallized the effort to make of the 
Supreme War Council a real factor of military coordination 
on the Western Front. It will be remembered that during the 
Paris conferences House had agreed with Clemenceau that 
the military advisers should form a board of coordination 
and that its chairman should have executive powers. To 
this the British raised objections on the ground that it was 
an infraction of the Rapallo Agreement and would come close 
to making of the chairman a generalissimo. 

In January, a new plan was evolved by General Foch and 
Sir Henry Wilson which provided for a large measure of 
coordination. Since the Allies were decided to remain upon 
the defensive until the American troops appeared in force, 
they planned to create a general reserve, drawn from all the 
Allied armies, which would be placed under the orders of the 
military advisers of the Supreme War Council. The latter 
would form for this purpose an Executive War Board, which 
could throw reinforcements to any point attacked by Luden- 
dorff. If the Germans drove back either the British or the 
French, in so doing they would present an open and un- 
guarded flank, against which the Allied reserve could be 


hurled. It was in essence the strategy utilized by Foch in 
his July counter-offensive, the beginning of victory. It left 
the British and French Commanders-in-Chief supreme over 
their armies on the fighting line, but created an authority 
higher than the Commanders-in-Chief to dispose of the 
reserve. It was open to criticism in that it divided the forces 
and placed the command of the reserve in charge of a com- 
mittee. But the committee, as constituted, expressed the 
military brains of Foch and it was free from the dangerous 
preoccupation of each Commander-in-Chief how to save 
his own army when attacked. 

The plan was approved by the Supreme War Council at 
its January meeting, and received the enthusiastic endorse- 
ment of both Pershing and Bliss, who believed it the best 
available substitute for a generalissimo. 1 The French and 
British Commanders-in-Chief were present at the meeting of 
the Council which created the Executive War Board and the 
General Reserve, and seemed to acquiesce. When, however, 
they were requested to contribute their quota to the General 
Reserve, Sir Douglas Haig, after waiting nearly a month, 
replied that he had no divisions to contribute. A new plan 
was then drafted by himself and Petain for resisting the 
German attack. The reserve was not constituted, the powers 
of the Executive War Board vanished (for it had nothing to 
command), and the Foch scheme of defense was shattered. 

It is a question for military experts to decide, whether Haig 
was insufficiently supplied with troops, considering the length 
of his line, and thus was justified in his refusal to cooperate 
in the Foch plan; and also whether that plan would have 
actually fulfilled the hopes of the military members of the 
Supreme War Council. It is certain, however, that the Haig- 
P6tain plan was inadequate under given conditions, for when 
the Germans attacked, on March 21 (and that too at the 

1 Pershing to House, February 27, 1918; Bliss, in Foreign Affairs, 
December, 1922. 


point named by the Executive War Board), they broke the 
Allied line and destroyed the British Fifth Army. Within 
less than a week they threatened the capture of Amiens 
and the definitive separation of the British and French 

The peril of the Entente armies led to their salvation. It 
was clear that if Allied military unity were not at once estab- 
lished, Germany might defeat the Allies separately. The 
German victory was not the result of anything so much as 
unified action and concentration of forces. During the week 
that followed March 21, one hundred German divisions had 
come into action against thirty-five British and only fifteen 
French. The moral was obvious ; the Allies must secure unity 
of control. 

Andr6 Tardieu, whose relations with Clemenceau were 
close, pictures the French Prime Minister as always work- 
ing for the supreme command and unchangeable in his 
opinion as to whom it should be given. 

'As soon as he assumed the reins of government in Novem- 
ber, 1917, M. Clemenceau set to work to obtain more and 
better [than the Supreme War Council]. I had informed him 
that he could count on President Wilson's aid. On the other 
hand, opposition was still manifest in London and when dur- 
ing a brief stay in Paris at the end of 1917 1 publicly declared 
that the American and French Governments were agreed on 
the necessity of a unity of command, several English news^ 
papers protested. On the eve of my departure for New York, 
on December 30, 1917, 1 had a last talk with M. Clemenceau. 
I said to him: 

'"They are going to talk to me again over there about 
unity of command. And no doubt they will ask me, ' Who?' 
What shall I say?" 

'M. Clemenceau replied: "Foch."' l 

1 Tardieu, Truth about the Treaty, 37. 


On March 26, at Doullens, the new Secretary for War, 
Lord Milner, representing the British, accompanied by the 
chief British generals, met PoincarS, Clemenceau, and the 
French military leaders. 1 It was settled that: * General Foch 
is charged by the British and French Governments with co- 
ordinating the action of the Allied armies on the Western 
Front/ For a few more weeks he was compelled to carry 
through the task 'more by negotiation than by command/ 
but from that moment control of the forces in the West was 
in his hands. A new era had begun. 2 

Mr. Balfour in the mean time cabled to House asking him 
to impress upon the President the need for American troops. 
Would it not be possible for the United States to increase the 
number of embarkations and to send 120,000 troops a month 
for four months? Lord Reading also laid before House the 
gist of a long cable which he had received from the British 
Prime Minister, emphasizing the immediate importance of 
American man-power. Colonel House's notes of Lord Read- 
ing's communication follow: 

Reading Statement on Military Situation 

March 29, 1918 

'While there are good hopes that the present effort of the 
enemy may be checked, it is possible that Amiens will be lost, 
and the events of the immediate future will prove whether 
the enemy can reach this point or not. If Amiens falls we 
shall have to face a very grave military situation. In any 
event, the enemy has certainly shown his ability to break 

1 Field-Marshal Haig agreed that he would be glad to receive General 
Foch's advice. 

2 At Beauvais, on April 3, Foch was given a brevet of actual command: 
'The strategic direction of military operations.' But the Commanders-in- 
Chief were left in control of 'the tactical conduct of their armies,' with the 
right of appeal to their respective Governments. It was not until 
April 24 that Foch received the 'Commandement en chef des armies 


through the Franco-British front over a wide area, and it is 
certain that if the German High Command cannot secure all 
their aims in the present battle, they will at once commence 
preparing their forces to deliver a further attack at the 
earliest possible date. The point at which this attack will 
be delivered must depend to a great extent on the eventual 
result of the operations now proceeding. The entire military 
position in the future must depend on whether we can recon- 
stitute and reenforce our armies in sufficient time to check 
the next blow, and, in the light of the last week's fighting, it 
is clear that the problem of man-power is the fundamental 
question with which the Allies are faced. . . . 

'Our losses so far have reached about 120,000 men. We 
can barely make good these losses by bringing in our whole 
resources of partially and fully trained men, and we shall be 
obliged to use all our trained reserves in doing so. In these 
circumstances we are immediately taking action to increase 
the number of our troops by taking in youths of 18 and by 
raising the age limit to 50, and we are also again "combing 
out" our industrial establishments to a large extent, a pro- 
ceeding which will cause serious hardship and dislocation to 
our industries. Furthermore, we are ready to run the risk of 
serious difficulties in Ireland, as we regard it as absolutely 
essential that we should during the summer of this year be in 
a position to show ourselves more powerful than the Ger- 
mans. These drastic measures will, we hope, give us 400,000 
to 500,000 men as reinforcements, but they cannot be given 
sufficient training to enable us to employ them in France for 
another four months at least. There is, therefore, the risk of 
a shortage during the period of May to July next, and this is 
the very time at which the next great effort by the Germans 
is to be anticipated. 

'Thus, in order to be certain of checking the enemy during 
these months, and making it impossible for him to reach a 
military decision on the West Front, it will be necessary to 


make good the deficiency during this period by the use of 
American troops. In this way alone it is possible to secure 
the position of the Allies. 

'The shipping experts in London have estimated that the 
tonnage which we can provide by heavier sacrifices in other 
ways will be able to embark about 60,000 men in the United 
States during April, and, according to an estimate by Admiral 
Sims, 52,000 men per month can be carried by the American 
trooping fleet. There is also a certain volume of Dutch ship- 
ping which could be used by the United States, and the use of 
certain further Italian tonnage is being secured by us. We 
think that in all it is possible to embark 120,000 from the 
United States during April, a number which could be some- 
what increased in the following months. . . . 

'If the struggle should be decided against us without these 
troops being employed, it is quite possible that the war may 
be terminated and the cause lost, for which the President has 
pleaded so eloquently, without the United States having 
received a chance of making use of anything but a small frac- 
tion of her forces. 

'The whole future of the war will, in our opinion, depend 
on whether the enemy or the Allies can be first to repair the 
losses which have been incurred in this great struggle, and it 
is certain that there will not be a moment's delay on the part 
of the Germans. They are in possession of sufficient man- 
power to repair what they have lost, and there is also the 
Austrian army 250,000 of which are, according to statements 
made by the German press, already in the West. If Jwe can- 
not refit as rapidly as the enemy, this will give the enemy the 
opportunity to achieve the definite military decision by 
which the German leaders hope to terminate the war as a 
German victory/ 


Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, March 26, 1918 

Prime Minister and I saw Mr. Baker l this morning and 
earnestly pressed upon him the urgency of obtaining from 
the proper authorities assent to the following suggestions: 

First: That four American divisions should be used at once 
to hold the line and relieve further French divisions. 

Second: We understand that transport is available for 
bringing six complete American divisions to this country. 
We strongly urge that, in present crisis, this tonnage would 
be more usefully employed if it were not used to carry com- 
plete divisions with their full complement of artillery et 
cetera, but if it were used in main for transport of infantry 
of which at this moment we stand in most pressing need. 

Third: That as temporary expedient American engineer 
units in France now engaged in preparing base and line of 
communication of future American Army and said to include 
many skilled engineers should be diverted from present oc- 
cupation and utilized as extemporized engineer units for 
construction of defences et cetera in rear of our armies. 

Fourth: That one of American displacement divisions 
which is reported to be complete with transport should also 
be employed in the line either as a separate division or to 
increase infantry in combatant divisions. 


Colonel House to Mr. A. J. Balfour 


NEW YORK, March 26, 1918 

Your No. 68 received and has been handed to the Presi- 
dent with my urgent recommendation that orders be at once 
issued as suggested. 

1 Secretary Baker spent some weeks in a visit of inspection in France 
and England. 


Although anxious we have such faith in the courage and 
tenacity of the British troops that we feel confident of the 
final outcome. 



NEW YORK, March 27, 1918 

The President agrees with practically every suggestion 
that you make regarding the disposition of our army. 

I am glad to inform you that Secretary Baker, after con- 
sultation with Generals Bliss and Pershing, has given orders 
making effective the recommendations set forth in your mes- 


Mr. A. J. Balfour to Colonel House 


LONDON, April 3, 1918 

May I personally express to you my very great apprecia- 
tion of the noble response which the President has made to 
our urgent request for American help in this crisis. I feel sure 
that much was due to your efforts. I would like you to know 
that it is realized here how great a sacrifice has been made by 
America by allowing her battalions to be incorporated in 
British Divisions. I need hardly to assure you that I will do 
all in my power to make the position as little onerous as 




The March crisis had led General Pershing to go at once to 
General Foch's headquarters and to place at his disposal all 
American combatant forces. Approximately 300,000 troops 
had by this tilde reached France. The acceptance of this 
offer meant the dispersion of those troops along the Allied 


front and a consequent delay in building up a distinctive 
American force in Lorraine, although Pershing planned to 
keep his divisions intact. 

Furthermore, on March 27 the Supreme War Council 
passed, with American approval, the following resolution, 
which provided for the temporary brigading of American 
troops with Allied units, although it also emphasized the 
principle of an independent American army. It was accepted 
by Pershing. 

Resolution of Supreme War Council 

4 The Military Representatives are of the opinion that it is 
highly desirable that the American Government should as- 
sist the Allied Armies as soon as possible by permitting in 
principle the temporary service of American units in Allied 
Army corps and divisions. Such reinforcements must, how- 
ever, be obtained from other units than those American 
divisions which are now operating with the French, and the 
units so temporarily employed must eventually be returned 
to the American army. 

'The Military Representatives are of the opinion that from 
the present time, in execution of the foregoing, and until 
otherwise directed by the Supreme War Council, only Ameri- 
can infantry and machine-gun units, organized as that Gov- 
ernment may decide, be brought to France, and that all 
agreements or conventions hitherto made in conflict with this 
decision be modified accordingly/ 

In conjunction with the promise of President Wilson that 
the United States would ship 120,000 troops a month for four 
months, the Allied leaders took this resolution to mean that 
all American troops transported during four months would 
be infantry and machine-gunners and would be brigaded with 
the Allies. General Pershing, however, did not so understand 


it. He was firm always in his insistence upon the need of 
building up an American force as soon as possible, and while 
he understood that the 60,000 troops for which the British 
had promised to find transportation might be brigaded, he 
believed that the agreement permitted him to use the excess 
tonnage over the 60,000 to complete American divisions. On 
April 9, Lord Reading, who had just received a long cable 
from his Government, informed Colonel House of its sub- 
stance and asked his advice as to how best to take up the 
misunderstanding with the American Government. 

* It is plain,' he said in effect to House, * that the views held 
by General Pershing are in no way consistent with the broad 
lines of policy which we understand to have been accepted by 
the President. The principal point of difference is that in our 
view the promise meant that, in the course of the four 
months, April, May, June, and July, 480,000 infantry and 
machine guns are to be brigaded with British or French 
troops. This obligation is not admitted by General Pershing, 
who clearly disapproves of the adoption of such a policy. 

*A further and lesser discrepancy is that the British Gov- 
ernment, while quite in agreement with General Pershing 
as to the ultimate withdrawal of the troops brigaded with 
the British and French for the formation of an American 
army, consider that this process cannot and should not be 
attempted before about October or November next at the 
end of this year's season for active military operations. 

'The President has shown such a firm grasp of the situa- 
tion that we are most unwilling to cause him any possible 
embarrassment. ... It is, however, essential to have the 
question cleared up, as the repeated indications of the dif- 
ference between the view taken by General Pershing and 
what we understand to be the policy decided upon by the 
President show that those differences are of fundamental im- 
portance and closely affect the issues of the whole war.' 


4 1 advised Reading/ wrote Colonel House in his diary, 
4 not to ask for an appointment with the President until to- 
morrow and not to see him until after he had received a letter 
from me which I will write to-day.' House sympathized both 
with the Allied leaders and with Pershing. 'Pershing's feel- 
ing/ he wrote the President, 'that an American army under 
his command should be established and made as formidable 
as possible is understandable. Nevertheless, the thing to be 
done now is to stop the Germans and to stop them it is evi- 
dent that we must put in every man that is available/ The 
only way to satisfy both sides was to increase the number 
of troops shipped, even beyond the 120,000 that had been 
planned. Before coming to a decision it would be necessary 
to await the arrival of Secretary Baker, who had been present 
in France and could report authoritatively upon conditions 
there. In the mean time all preparations for the transporta- 
tion of American troops would be pushed. 

On April 19 Ambassador Reading was handed another 
memorandum. It reiterated the promise of transporting 
120,000 troops and intimated that they would consist of in- 
fantry and machine-gunners. It stated, however, that these 
troops 'will, under the direction and at the discretion of 
General Pershing, be assigned for training and use with 
British, French, and American divisions, as the exigencies of 
the situation from time to time require/ 

The Commander of the A.E.F. thus was left free to dis- 
tribute these troops as he deemed best. If tonnage facilities 
could be increased and more troops brought over, then it 
would be possible for him to assign the full 120,000 for pur- 
poses of brigading, and utilize the excess for the formation 
of an independent American army. It was this possibility 
which, in the mind of Colonel House, would furnish the solu- 
tion to the problem. 

Neither the British nor French were satisfied, however, 
and further negotiations and tentative agreements between 


their military leaders and Pershing failed to convince them 
of the justice of his position. At the Abbeville conference, 
early in May, he offered six divisions of infantry and machine- 
gunners a month, provided tonnage facilities could be in- 
creased; but he insisted that the excess tonnage should be 
devoted to the transportation of the artillery and auxiliary 
arms necessary to complete American divisions. Further- 
more, he agreed to leave his six divisions with Field-Marshal 
Haig only as 'long as the emergency lasted.' This would 
permit him later to recall the divisions when he considered 
that the emergency no longer existed. 1 

General Foch and the military representatives of the Su- 
preme War Council necessarily disapproved this arrange- 
ment. They were convinced that to prevent the appalling 
danger of the Germans exhausting the Allied reserves and 
having them at their mercy in July or August, every avail- 
able ton of shipping should be utilized for the transporta- 
tion of American infantry and machine-gunners. 

Mr. A. H. Frazier to Colonel House 


PARIS, May 6, 1918 

. . . The difference in result between these two plans is not 
insignificant; assuming that the tonnage can be found for 
transporting two hundred thousand men in the months of 
May and June and that only infantry were sent, the Allies 
could count on four hundred thousand men to fill up their 
shattered divisions and thus not be forced to reduce the num- 
ber of such divisions. According to General Pershing's plan 
barely half of this number of infantry would be available. 


But Pershing was willing to wager that the Germans could 

1 As it developed, General Pershing early in August asked for the recall 
of the American divisions, in order to form the First American Army. 


be stopped under his plan, and that the creation of an inde- 
pendent American army would mean such increased fighting 
power on the part of the American troops, fighting under 
their own flag, that the war would be shortened. He held 
firm to the offer which he made, and the Allies perforce ac- 
cepted it. Whatever may have been the opinion in Washing- 
ton as to the correctness of his judgment, the Administration 
supported the general in command. 

In the middle of May came a suggestion that perhaps 
Wilson would send over Colonel House to represent the 
United States on the political side of the Supreme War Coun- 
cil. The suggestion was brought by Lord Reading to the 
Colonel before he took it to the President. He showed him a 
cable from Lloyd George which is paraphrased in Colonel 
House's notes as follows: 

' In my opinion it is of the greatest importance that Colonel 
House should come to Europe for the next meeting of the 
Supreme War Council. This meeting will be a most impor- 
tant one at which decisions on vital matters will be taken, 
especially in connection with the employment of American 

'It does not seem to me possible to arrive at satisfactory 
conclusions unless there is present a political authority to 
represent the United States Government with whom we are 
able to deal on equal terms and who is in a position to reach a 
decision at once. . . . 

* Great injury results from the indecision and delay which 
are entailed by telegraphic negotiations. The French 
Premier has now pressed that the next meeting may take 
place on June 1, as both he and General Foch are most 
anxious that we should arrive at final decisions without 

* We fully concur in this view as to the urgency of meeting. 
The date proposed would, of course, hardly allow sufficient 


time for House to arrive before the opening meeting, even 
supposing that he left early next week. If he can come, I 
would, however, ask for a few days' postponement in spite of 
the deep regret with which I should regard delay, owing to 
the very great importance which I attach to his presence. 
Will you please urge this matter upon the President and, if 
the President concurs, endeavour to persuade House to start 
at the earliest possible moment? Please convey my apologies 
to him for the short notice given. I am quite aware that 
these sudden voyages are most embarrassing, but unfortu- 
nately, the enemy waits for no man's convenience. . . .' 

Colonel House was quite definite in his own mind that 
neither he nor any one else ought to be sent over to the Su- 
preme War Council meeting at this juncture. It was certain 
that the Allied leaders would appeal to an American political 
representative to persuade Pershing to postpone his plan for 
a separate American army, and it was equally certain that 
the Commander of the American forces must be allowed a 
free hand. President Wilson had promised himself that for 
the first time in the history of the country, there should 
be no political interference with the military conduct of the 

Colonel House to the President 

NEW YORK, May 20, 1918 


Reading took breakfast with me this morning. He is just 
back from Ottawa. He had a cable from the Prime Minister, 
instructing him to see you and request that you send me or 
some one else to represent the civil end of our Government at 
the next meeting of the Supreme War Council. 

This meeting is scheduled to meet Saturday [week], but he 
thinks it could be postponed for a few days if I could leave 
within the next day or two What Lloyd George wants is 


some one to overrule Pershing. They probably intend to 
bring up the same old question. . . . 

We both believe that whatever is contemplated at this 
next meeting can rest long enough to get a cable directly 
from you in the event it is necessary to decide any difference 
which may arise between them and Pershing. Please be as- 
sured that I am perfectly willing to go now or at any time 
when in your judgment I should go. We think, however, that 
it would be much better for me to go later, probably in Sep- 
tember or October, if you think it wise for me to go at all. ... 

Affectionately yours 


On May 22 Lord Reading requested an interview of Presi- 
dent Wilson, at which he presented the suggestion of Mr. 
Lloyd George that an American political representative be 
sent to Europe to sit on the Supreme War Council, and, after 
gaining permission to speak with entire candor, said that the 
British and French would like Colonel House. The President 
replied that if he sent any representative it would be House, 
but that he agreed entirely with House that it was inadvis- 
able to send him at the present time. 

When necessity drives, a means can be found. If the Allies 
had to have American infantry and machine-gunners, then 
they must make available the tonnage necessary for them as 
well as for the units essential to the completion of the Amer- 
ican divisions and the creation of an independent American 
army. On June 5, Pershing, Foch, and Milner reached an 

It was assumed that no less than 250,000 American troops 
would be transported in each of the months of June and July. 
For the month of June 170,000 of these should be combatant 
troops (that is, six divisions minus artillery, ammunition 


trains, or supply trains). For July there should be absolute 
priority for 140,000 combatant troops as described. The 
balance of each 250,000 should be troops of categories desig- 
nated by the American Commanding General in France. If 
the arrangement were carried into effect the Allies would 
have at their disposal a number of infantry and machine- 
gunners far exceeding what they had asked or expected in 
March after the German offensive, and yet General Pershing 
would be able to proceed with the creation of the American 

The Prime Ministers of France, Great Britain, and Italy 
insisted that only with the assistance thus provided for could 
there be any certainty of averting a German victory before 
the close of the summer, and they cabled directly to Presi- 
dent Wilson to make sure that Pershing's promise was under- 
stood in Washington and that the Administration was pre- 
pared to carry it out. Wilson replied with a promise of full 
support, agreeing ultimately to put an army of one hundred 
divisions in France. 

Cable of the Three Prime Ministers 

VERSAILLES, June 1, 1918 

We desire to express our warmest thanks to President Wil- 
son for remarkable promptness with which American aid in 
excess of what at one time seemed practicable has been ren- 
dered to Allies during past month to meet a great emergency. 
The crisis, however, still continues. General Foch has pre- 
sented us a statement of the utmost gravity which points out 
that the numerical superiority of the enemy in France, where 
162 Allied divisions now oppose 200 German divisions, is 
very heavy, and that as there is no possibility of British and 
French increasing the number of their divisions (on the con- 
trary, they are put to extreme straits to keep them up) there 
is a great danger of the war being lost unless the numerical 


inferiority of the Allies can be remedied as rapidly as pos- 
sible by -the advent of American troops. He therefore urges 
with utmost insistence that maximum possible number of 
infantry and machine guns, in which respects shortage of 
men on side of Allies is most marked, should continue to be 
shipped from America in months of June and July to avert 
the immediate danger of an Allied defeat in present campaign 
owing to Allied reserves being exhausted before those of the 

In addition to this and looking to future he represents that 
it is impossible to foresee ultimate victory in the war unless 
America is able to provide such an army as will enable the 
Allies ultimately to achieve the necessary numerical superi- 
ority. He places the total American force required for this 
at no less than 100 divisions and urges continuous raising of 
fresh American levies which in his opinion should not be less 
than 300,000 a month, with a view to establishing a total 
American force of 100 divisions at as early a date as this can 
possibly be done. 

We are satisfied that General Foch, who is conducting the 
present campaign with consummate ability and on whose 
military judgment we continue to place the most absolute 
reliance, is not overestimating the needs of the case and we 
feel confidence that the United States Government will do 
everything that can be done both to meet the needs of the 
immediate situation and to proceed with continuous raising 
of fresh levies calculated to provide as soon as possible the 
numerical superiority which Commander-in-Chief of Allied 

forces regards as essential to ultimate victory 


'June 5, 1918: I had an important conversation,' wrote 
House, "with Wiseman this morning. Lloyd George has sent 


Lord Reading a cable signed by the Prime Ministers of Eng- 
land, France, and Italy, urging the President to send -over a 
stated number of troops during June and July : 170,000 fight- 
ing men was the June estimate, and 140,000 the July esti- 
mate. The cable is an alarming one. . . . The President is 
willing to send troops without limit either as to number or as 

to time It is an indication that they now have arrived at 

some understanding with Pershing. 

6 1 have asked Sir William to write out a cable to send 
Lloyd George, in which he is to state that it was prepared 
after consultation with me. . . . Jusserand is to see the Pres- 
ident at two o'clock and present the cable [of the Prime 
Ministers], Wiseman is to telephone me the result later. . . . 

'Wiseman has just telephoned that Jusserand saw the 
President and he promised to send one hundred divisions of 
our troops over as soon as it was possible to do so. This 
means 2,700,000 men.' 

Thus was American man-power to be transferred to the 
battle-front. The number of American troops which actually 
participated in the defensive warfare of June and July was 
not large, but the arrival of the troops in France was a guar- 
antee that Allied reserves would not be exhausted, as the 
military leaders of the Entente feared. The American 
promise of March had been to send 480,000 in the four suc- 
ceeding months. As it developed, close to a million were sent 
during those four months. 1 The agreement of June, which 
called for 250,000 a month, was surpassed; the monthly 
average from June to September inclusive was over 280,000. 2 

April 118,642 

May 245,945 

June 278,664 

July 306,350 


Ayres, The War with Germany, 37. 
Ibid., 37. 


It was the general opinion in military circles that it would 
require at least another year of fighting to defeat Germany. 1 
In fact, some felt that the final campaigns could not come 
before 1920. These were the days when it seemed wiser not 
to be optimistic, for the military situation demanded the 
courage of desperation. It was true that the gap between 
British and French armies before Amiens had been closed 
and the British had held firm in Flanders. But the German 
drive from the Chemin des Dames at the end of May had been 
victorious and in June the enemy again threatened Paris. 

House hoped, nevertheless, that Allied victory might 
come sooner than the military leaders dared to believe. With 
the appointment of Foch as generalissimo and the American 
troops crossing the Atlantic in numbers, he felt that the 
worst crisis had been passed. He counted, furthermore, upon 
a break in Germany's morale as soon as it appeared clear 
that the offensive had been stopped, and upon the effect of 
President Wilson's speeches, which had sown distrust be- 
tween German people and Government and stimulated the 
process of self-determination in Austria. He even dared to 
prophesy the overthrow of the German military leaders by 

Colonel House to the President 


June 23, 1918 

... I notice that the Germans are saying it will be 1920 
before we can have as many as a million men there [France]. 
We already have them and the German people should know 
it. I was under the impression, and Reading confirmed it, 
that we have sent men across the Atlantic more rapidly than 
the English have ever sent them across the Channel, 8 and the 

1 Pershing to House, June 19, 1918. 

9 But more than half were carried in British ships. 


shipping facilities of the Allies are increasing so rapidly that 
we can soon do even better. 

England, France, and Italy need now constant stimulation 
and no one can do it so well as you. If their morale can be 
kept up until autumn, in my opinion our fight against Ger- 
many will be largely won. I believe Austria is already at the 
breaking point and I also believe the German people will 
take the supreme power from the military extremists this 
autumn, if they do not have a decisive victory on the West* 
ern Front. . . . 

Affectionately yours